In this undated tv grab taken from a video released by Al-Furqan media, the chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location. Baghdadi was believed to be dead after a US military raid in Syria's Idlib region, US media reported early on Oct. 27, 2019.
AFP/Al-Furqan Media
Mindanao might attract more foreign fighters amid death of ISIS leader — expert
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2019 - 10:49am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign fighters from neighboring Southeast Asian countries might continue to go to the Philippines despite the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an expert on Southeast Asian security said.

Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, said the death of Baghdadi would not have any real impact on counter-terror efforts in the Philippines.

ISIS-inspired groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Maute group, AKP and others will continue to operate in Mindanao.

"My concern is that the southern Philippines will continue to be a draw for foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, simply because ISIS has suffered such reversals in Iraq and Syria, on top of the already formidable logistical challenges of getting there," Abuza told Philstar.com.

The Washington-based security expert noted that ISIS-inspired groups in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, are very autonomous.

"The southern Philippines is the only place in Southeast Asia that pro-ISIS cells have the ability to actually control territory, and the pro-ISIS groups there are more than welcome to take in foreign fighters," Abuza said.

He also noted that the central leadership of ISIS has not given priority to Southeast Asia aside from the Marawi siege in 2017.

According to Abuza, ISIS seeks to grow its base in the region in the future following the Marawi siege, which gained ISIS media attention and financial support.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said the death of the ISIS leader would be "just a momentary setback considering the depth and reach of the organization worldwide."

"Somebody will take his place to lead the ISIS. Maybe not as famous and well-known," Lorenzana.

US President Donald Trump earlier confirmed that Baghdadi was killed in a nighttime raid by US special forces in northwest Syria.

The US special forces carried out the raid in cooperation with Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

"He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way," Trump said.

ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI COVER STORY DELFIN LORENZANA ISIS MINDANAO TERRORISM ZACHARY ABUZA
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