PHL being checked by ISIS after failure to establish in Indonesia: analyst

MANILA-- The Philippines, especially Mindanao, is being eyed by ISIS terrorists as another base for operations after their failure to establish a caliphate in Indonesia, a Singaporean analyst on security affairs has said.

The terror group's expansion began in 2014 when ISIS decided to go beyond the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Middle East and set their sight on Africa, the Caucasus and Asia, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna said in a Skype interview during PTV-4's Countering Violent Extremism Forum Friday.

"The Philippines was selected because they (ISIS) could not establish a caliphate in Indonesia," Gunaratna said, adding that ISIS also found in the Philippines local terrorist groups willing to support its extremism cause.

These include Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon's group in Basilan, Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan's band in Sulu, the Ansar Khalifa Philippines in the Soccsksargen region, the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, to name a few.

With these new alliances, Gunaratna said, the ISIS saw an opportunity to create a new threat landscape in the southern Philippines.

When asked why the Maute Group, which is now locked in a battle with government forces after attacking Marawi City, decided to follow and indoctrinate its supporters with Wahhabism, the Singaporean security analyst said this is because its founders, Omar and Abdullah, both studied in the Middle East and brought home this Middle Eastern type of ideology.

Wahhabism is defined as an ultra-conservative form of Islam that justifies punishments for those who don't follow its teachings.

To counter this, Gunaratna said the Philippines should maintain its local tradition of Islam, the one that espouses tolerance and peace that has existed in the country for centuries.

Source: Philippines News Agency