The leader of the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), warned of a potential 'second Marawi'. This refers to the influx of radical Islamist militants Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) into the Philippines.
As reported by AFP and Reuters Tuesday (20/2/2018), Murad Ebrahim who is the leader of the MILF says pro-ISIS militants in the Philippines continue to be purged of booty rifles and money cash. This situation, according to him, could trigger the latest attacks such as the attack on Marawi last year. The MILF has signed a peace deal with the Philippine government some time ago.
The pro-ISIS five-month militant raid on Marawi, Mindanao in 2017 reportedly killed more than 1,100 people. Murad insisted that the situation on the ground is currently quite 'ripe' for similar attacks in other Philippine cities, or the second Marawi attack.
"The ISIS group continues to pervade as they are expelled in the Middle East and they want to have another place," Murad said. "The other Marawi's opportunities can not be ruled out," he added.
Mentioned Murad, ISIS militants pushed in Iraq and Syria continue to flow into the southern Philippines. Murad did not mention the exact number of ISIS militants entering the Philippines. He simply stated the militants were moving to the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, which often kidnaps foreigners and hijacks the ship. There, they recruited new fighters from remote Muslim communities.
This recruitment is suspected to be carried out to launch a new offensive in the Philippines. Murad mentions that there are two cities that may be the target of pro-ISIS group attacks in the Philippines.
"Based on our own intelligence information, foreign fighters expelled from the Middle East continue to enter our border gap and may plan to take two cities to the south – Iligan and Cotabato," he said without elaborating. The two cities are known to be within 38 kilometers and 265 kilometers from Marawi.
Murad also said that the MILF continues to fight against pro-ISIS militant efforts infiltrated the madrassas and secular universities to influence their ideology. "These extremists enter the madrassa, teach young Muslims about their own version of the Qur'an and some enter local universities to influence students, plant seeds of hatred and violence," Murad said.
According to Murad, pro-ISIS militants also exploited delays the discussion of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) legislation allowing local Muslim communities to run their own autonomy. He also encouraged the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to speed up the discussion of BBL. "If that (BBL) is not passed now, I think it will trigger a situation where extremist groups can recruit more followers, as this will prove their theory that there is no hope in the peace process," Murad said. "Given they have the ability to supply money and then they also have the ability to assemble explosives, bombs, they can use young followers to run their plans," he added.
(nvc / ita)