IS trying to establish base in Mindanao
Source: The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines - The international terrorist group Islamic State or IS is trying to establish a base or a wilayat (province) in Central Mindanao by tapping the Abu Sayyaf and rallying the Maute group.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the information yesterday, adding that IS sent Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon to infiltrate the area after noting that Basilan or Sulu is too small to become a base, leading troops to easily get cornered by authorities.
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“They now have contact… based on the report that we have received, (Hapilon was sent) to find out if Central Mindanao is more conducive to the establishment of an organization or a Wilayat,” Lorenzana said.
He added that aside from securing a bigger area in which to operate, IS is also trying to get the support of the Maute group, which has about 100 members in their stronghold, including some who have become town mayors and owners of a construction company.
The government, he said, is aware of what is happening and is conducting operations in Butig town, Lanao del Sur. Surveillance is also conducted in the vicinity of Lake Lanao.
“We will see to it that they will not be able to establish that kind of organization here,” Lorenzana said, as he stressed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is working to ensure this.
According to the information Lorenzana received, Isnilon moved from Basilan to Lanao del Sur sometime in mid-December 2016, bringing with him a small band of people.
The defense chief added that the AFP continues to operate against the Abu Sayyaf and its kidnapping activities, the latest of which happened last week when they took three Indonesian crew of a Malaysian fishing vessel in Jolo.
He stressed though that the Philippines is not the only country in the world that is having problems with IS, pointing out that even large countries Russia and China face the same threat.
The war in the Middle East, he added, is pushing the terrorist group back and forcing many to leave the region.
Lorenzana said the government is doing its best to monitor some Filipinos in the Middle East, especially those perceived to be returning to the country to establish more links to the terrorist group