18 February 2016
Is the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) militant group gaining a foothold in the Philippines? The declaration of the first IS wilayat (province) in Southeast Asia appeared possible after Filipino and Malaysian militants from previously separate jihadist groups pledged allegiance to IS in an online video released in January 2016.Recognition from IS would certainly increase the attractiveness of Mindanao to jihadists based in Southeast Asia. But there is little solid evidence of a formal relationship between Mindanao and IS.
On 4 January 2016, several online jihadist portals posted a seven minute video depicting more than two dozen gunmen gathered in front of a black flag associated with IS. Led by Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Basilan-based faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the individuals in the video reiterated their prior pledges to IS ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The video claimed that Hapilon was now the emir or leader of the converged militant groups, which included the ASG and the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP). Hapilon’s apparent ascent as the head of IS-inspired militants in Mindanao is unprecedented as it suggests his growing influence beyond Basilan, his traditional support base.
Raising further alarms was the presence of three wanted Malaysian militants in the video: Abu Anas al-Muhajir, Mahmud Ahmad and Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee. Analysts were quick to jump on the presence of foreign militants as proof that the convergence of IS-inspired groups was the result of direct guidance from the IS central leadership. Speculation was rife that the IS-linked Malaysians were recently deployed by IS ‘central’ to enhance the operational capability of Filipino militants.
… Joseph Franco is an Associate Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
CENS / Online
Last updated on 19/02/2016