The Isis Attempt to Infiltrate the Philippines
Last summer, the Philippine Army successfully subdued the rebellion that claimed to have connections to ISIS. The insurrection took place in the southern part of the country in the islands of Mindanao.
However, ISIS fighters falling back from Iraq and Syria are still crossing borders into the country which might pose a serious issue of the ever expanding jihadist threat across Southeast Asia.
Although both the Philippines and the U.S. work profusely in cementing their cooperative efforts to fortify defense measures in the wake of these events, the Philippine’s diverse and irregular geography as well as the government’s failure to give major services and aid to far areas of the country has permitted jihadists fighters to enter and make the Philippines a suitable base of operations for their cause all through out the region.
In July of 2014, the Abu Sayyaf group had pledged their allegiance to the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The battle for the city of Marawi started after the house of then Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, was raided by the forces of the Philippines.
The Philippine forces faced strong resistance from the supporters of Hapilon. The pro-ISIS Maute group was successful in taking over the city of Mawari and released prisoners from their local jails creating further havoc and chaos, giving the Philippine forces a hard time in securing the city.
The clash between the forces of the Philippines and the rebel groups ultimately ended after five months of urban warfare. Casualties were reported to reach the number of 1,100. The Philippine army announced in October that they had eliminated Hapilon along with Muate group leader Omar Maute which concluded the bloody encounter in Marawi.
Rising tensions between the major population of Catholics and Muslim minority sparked a religious struggle which caused the uprising of multiple rebel groups who follow Maoist or militant Islamist teachings, their numbers are steadily growing in recent years.
With the goal of establishing a new caliphate, the Philippines became the main target of ISIS fighters who are fleeing from Syria and Iraq. According to Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Ebrahim Murad, ISIS fighters from other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia as well as ISIS members form the Middle East have infiltrated the Philippines. The MILF militant group is currently under peace talks with the Philippines government.
Philippine military officials stated that ISIS has rebuilt their force with about 200 fighters in Mindanao. The mandate to build a caliphate in Southeast Asia is still their prime directive.
In recent news, Philippine forces claimed to have identified the new leader of the ISIS in Southeast Asia. 1st infantry division spokesman Major Ronaldo Suscano stated that one of the leaders who planned the attack on Marawi is only known as “Abu Dar”, Dar replaced Hapilon who was killed in action in 2017.
Dar is known to be a native of Lanao del Sur and has connections to other militant groups outside the country. According to Brigadier-General Bienvenido Datuin, Abu Dar has the resources and connections and is more than capable to lead.
During Hapilon’s leadership, Dar was only a sub-leader. Dar’s group managed to bring about 500 million pesos or $12.7 million out of Marawi during the early phases of the siege, according to military estimates.