Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, however, assured the public government security forces are not letting its guard down and are enforcing measures to thwart the IS plan.
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Army: Foreign jihadists eyeing caliphate in Mindanao
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The convergence of foreign jihadists in the country, encouraging violent extremism particularly in Sulu, is part of the Islamic State (IS)’s plan to reestablish a caliphate in Mindanao, an Army official said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, however, assured the public government security forces are not letting its guard down and are enforcing measures to thwart the IS plan.

“It’s been reported even before. They are losing ground in the Middle East – Syria and Iraq – and they consider the roads leading to the Philippines as part of an old caliphate. So there’s an attempt to like that (reestablish the caliphate),” Alberto said.

He revealed the military has monitored a number of foreign militants in the country but did not say how many are already in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, the areas considered hotbeds of terrorism.

“We have reports about this. If not from Middle East, they came from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Sometimes we could not distinguish what countries they came from,” Alberto said.

Miriam College International Studies professor Rommel Banlaoi earlier revealed foreign terrorists are already in Sulu.

Banlaoi said that aside from Indonesians and Malaysians militants, Arabs, Pakistanis, Pattanis (Thais), Bangladeshi and Uyghurs (Turks) are now in Sulu operating with the Abu Sayyaf.

A senior anti-terror official confirmed that indeed there are a number of foreign jihadists currently being coddled by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. He, however, declined to identify the countries where they came from.

Earlier, Banlaoi warned that an Egyptian couple with direct links to IS is recruiting young Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu to become suicide bombers.

The military has confirmed a Filipino militant belonging to the Abu Sayyaf was among the two suicide bombers that recently attacked an Army camp in Indanan, Sulu.

The suicide attacks left three soldiers and two civilians dead and 22 others injured.

The involvement of a local militant in the suicide bombing raised major concerns in the campaign against terrorism.

Suicide attacks have been used extremely rarely, with foreign fighters blamed for the few that have been carried out.

As its “caliphate” crumbled in the Middle East, IS has stepped up its strategy of absorbing existing insurgent groups around the world and claiming their attacks.

The group has had a presence for years in Mindanao, where rugged terrain and weak government control provide a safe haven for fighters.

Suicide attacks indicate a higher level of commitment to the militant cause, experts said, and are often approved by the central leadership of IS, who trade off the media profile the tactic brings.

ISLAMIC STATE MINDANAO
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