Location Phillippines Phillippines

Primed by Saudi Money and Influence, the ISIS Diaspora Reaches the Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (Analysis) — ISIS’ inevitable decline in Iraq and Syria, the credit for which is almost always wrongly bestowed upon the Trump administration, has provided windows of opportunity for the global terror group to spawn insurgencies in other locations.

On December 20, 2017, MintPress News reported how this foreseeable ISIS “diaspora” would lead to renewed operations not only in places like Afghanistan and Libya, but also in Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines.

As recent developments will show, it is indeed the Philippines that looks to be overrun by ISIS-inspired terrorism in the not-too-distant future — a convenient state of affairs for the U.S. military, which has been itching to intervene and cement its role as the major power-player in the region.

A brief background

An ISIS-linked insurgency made headlines near the end of last year, and eventually culminated in the U.S. military’s direct assistance in the Philippines’ government crackdown (unsurprisingly enough, the U.S. involvement took place without President Rodrigo Duterte’s consent).

At the time, the Military Times asserted that even while Filipino forces, together with the U.S., eventually retook the embattled areas in Mindanao (Mindanao houses over 22 million people in total), the insurgents “made them pay a heavy price” for over three months. The Times also noted that the Philippines is “ripe for ISIS recruitment, due to sectarian tensions between the country’s Muslim communities, primarily located on Mindanao, and its Catholic and Protestant populations in northern Philippines.”

In other words, this month-long battle was merely the beginning.

At the beginning of March this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) began validating reports that 23 armed groups in the country had consolidated their forces under one name: “ISIS Philippines.” These 23 groups are mostly based in Mindanao, and include a faction of Abu Sayyaf, the infamous group responsible for the biggest reported terror attack on Philippines’ soil. The military also confirmed that the ISIS-linked group Maute is in the process of recruiting and reorganizing following its defeat last year.

“We are not discounting the possibility that they plan another attack. That’s what we are trying to preempt,” said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, according to CNN.

Leaked memos from the Philippine National Police appeared to indicate that ISIS bombers already had their sights set on populated areas in Manila, including malls and plazas.

Near the end of February of this year, the U.S. State Department added ISIS’ Philippines component and six other purportedly Islamic extremist groups to the U.S. list of designated terrorists.

In mid-March, the AFP also confirmed that new clashes had erupted in Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao, which allegedly killed 44 Islamic militants belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group which also pledged its allegiance to ISIS. According to the Asia Times, the BIFF members did not deliberately attack troops, but were instead chanced upon by the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion troops of the 6th Infantry Division in the swamplands of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, some five hours away from the city of Marawi (the area under siege last year).

by Darius Shahtahmasebi

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