US admiral: 1,000 fighters from Asia-Pacific join IS
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2014 - 11:03am

MANILA, Philippines — About 1,000 fighters from across India to the Pacific have joined Islamic State militants, the United States Pacific Command (PACOM) announced.

In a press conference in the Pentagon on Thursday, Admiral Samuel Locklear, whose area of responsibility covers about 52 percent of the globe and 36 nations including the Philippines, said that PACOM is paying close attention to the movements of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"On foreign fighters or aspiring foreign fighters ... our estimations today has probably been a thousand potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region based on our overall assessment," Locklear said.

"That number could get larger as we go forward but certainly that's about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time," he added. The admiral, however, did not specify whether some of the recruits came from the Philippines, specifically from Mindanao.

Locklear was addressing queries on a recent threat by Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf, militants with alleged links with al-Qaeda, to kill German hostages in Sulu if Germany continues to support the US assault on the Islamic State in the Middle East.

Locklear said PACOM is coordinating with the US Central Command and working "very closely" with the US' partners and allies in the region. The Philippines is a major ally of the US in Asia.

"We are continuing to have a robust dialogue about how we sense and understand and share information about this particularly difficult problem," Locklear said.

"But I can assure you that it remains high on our list of things to think about as we look at the future security environment in this fast-growing region," the senior military official said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, said there are no links between local extremist militants and the Islamic State based on its monitoring.

"There are ISIS sympathizers, but they are just riding the bandwagon, trying to connect themselves to ISIS," Armed Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Thursday in a New York Times report.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, a top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said last August month they heard about the reported presence of Sunni preachers allegedly conducting recruitment for ISIS members. 

"But I can not confirm nor deny it," Hashim said. "But it is very possible."

ABU SAYYAF ADMIRAL SAMUEL LOCKLEAR ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BUT I CENTRAL COMMAND HABIB MUJAHAB HASHIM ISLAMIC STATE LOCKLEAR MINDANAO
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