AFP vows to disrupt emerging ISIS stronghold
Roel Pareño (Philstar.com) - January 16, 2016 - 3:26am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri said the government forces will disrupt any emerging militant groups establishing a local base for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Iriberri, who was here since Friday to assess the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf group, reacted to the report that several terrorist groups are allegedly training to build the ISIS caliphate in southern Philippines.

He said that even before the video footage showing fighters in training while hoisting the black flag came out, the AFP has already initiated operations that led to the neutralization of terror leaders and members.

“We have been always tried our best to neutralize the group,” he said.

The AFP, upon the discovery of Ansar Al-Khalifa (AKP), a notorious armed band linked to the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, carefully planned the attack against the group, said Iriberri. Marines in Sultan Kudarat neutralized eight of its members last year.

Iriberri also mentioned about the operations conducted against the faction of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Malaysian bomb expert Mohammad Najib Hussein alias “Abu Anas” in Al-Barka town, Basilan.

Anas, together with 25 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed, after a week-long offensive which began on Dec. 12, 2015. Troops were successful in disrupting the training and seizing the rebel training camp at Sitio Bohe Buug.

But troopers suffered three soldiers dead and 26 others wounded as a result of the offensive operations.

“Our armed forces are trying their best. Every time we have the information, we validate it and we take action just to make sure we will prevent whatever terror acts they are planning to do,” Iriberi said.

The AFP chief also appealed to the public to take extra vigilance and help the security forces to prevent terror acts.

Despite the operations, Iriberri maintained that the AFP has not yet gathered direct evidence that would prove the two militant groups are members of the ISIS.

“We have not established a direct link between them and the ISIS. Why? Because we have not receive any report yet whether they are already taking orders from the ISIS,” he said.

AKP in Central Mindanao and Basilan’s Dalw’tul Islamiyah W’liyahtul Masik have only declared support to the ISIS. Neither financial nor logistical support coming from ISIS had been confirmed.

Iribeeri also said that the organizational support of the ISIS is purely Sunni.

“Ito bang conglomeration of groups are they really acceptable of ISIS na pure Sunni? Has that been established? Remember ISIS was formed of the interest to establish caliphate based on Sunni faith. That is one we have not established,” Iriberri said, dismissing the report about the emergence of the ISIS in the country.

ABU ANAS ABU SAYYAF ABU SAYYAF AND THE BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS ACIRC ANSAR AL-KHALIFA ARMED FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF GENERAL HERNANDO IRIBERRI CENTRAL MINDANAO AND BASILAN IRIBERRI ISIS ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND SYRIA ISLAMIYAH W
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