'Indonesian, Malaysian Jihadists Set-up Bases in ARMM'
INDONESIAN and Malaysian militants have joined the Abu Sayyaf group in fighting Filipino security forces in the southern province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region, reports said.
Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon based in Basilan province is now the leader of the Islamic State’s new battalion in the Philippines, the Katibah Al-muhajir or the “Battalion of Migrants” made of mostly of Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists.
Malaysian media also quoted Singaporebased terrorism expert Dr. Rohan Gunaratna as saying that the new battalion in Basilan was set up due to difficulties faced by IS recruits in going to Syria and Iraq.
“Now we have seen that in the Philippines, IS has created Katibah Al-muhajir, the Battalion of Migrants. They are (made up of) Malaysians and Indonesians,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times. “There are about 10 Malaysians (there now),” he added, citing intelligence on the new battalion.
Just last month, IS released a propaganda video told its supporters in Southeast Asia to head to the Philippines instead if they found it hard to go to Syria and Iraq.
“The Philippines can be a very important launching pad to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore because southern Philippines is very centrally located,” Gunaratna said, noting that regional militants have already changed their focus to the new battalion base instead of IS'S base in Syria and Iraq.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Philippine military about new IS battalion, but security forces had previously killed several foreign jihadists in Basilan, the base of the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. IS base in Basilan But in January this year, the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner had reported that Basilan province has become the bastion of power of the Abu Sayyaf after it pledged allegiance to the caliph of the Islamic and named Hapilon as its new chieftain.
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In a propaganda video released by the Abu Sayyaf late last year, more than two dozen gunmen – including child warriors – led by Hapilon were seen hiking in the hinterlands of Basilan while chanting the “Dawlah Islamiyah (Islamic State)” after which they recited an Arabic script of bayah or pledge of allegiance.
Hapilon, alias Abu Abdullah, took over Abu Sayyaf founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani who was slain in a police shootout in Basilan in December 1998.
The Abu Sayyaf evolved to a notorious group known for having carried out kidnappings, bombings and other criminal activities in southern Philippines. The US government has offered a $5 million bounty for Hapilon’s head – dead or alive.
In the video, Hapilon was shown with Abu Harith Al-filibbieni, who is reported to be deputy commander of the al-ansar Infantry Division of the IS, and Mohd Najib Husen (Hussein), alias Abu Annas Al Muhajir, a division head of the Ansar al-sharia of the IS.
The militants explained in the video that they had previously done the bayah, but did it again in front of their new leaders. It was unknown when the video was recorded, but it was released just after the military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City claimed in December that Husen was killed during offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the troubled province of Basilan.
Husen was with other Malaysian jihadists – Mahmud Ahmad, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil – who fled to southern Philippines reportedly to recruit militants and send them to “Dar al-harb (place of war),” referring to Syria and Iraq, where the ISIS established its own caliphate state.
The Abu Sayyaf hoisted a black flag similar to those being used by the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other hard-line radical jihadist groups like the Boko Haram in Africa. Is-affiliates in Lanao,
Maguindanao In Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, which is also part of the Muslim autonomous region, the radical Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansarul Khilafah also pledged allegiance to the ISIS. Radical militants in Indonesia and Malaysia, including the Southeast Asian terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah had also done the same.
The jihadists also released a video of the IS’S Alhayat Media Center which shows the Philippines as among countries in Southeast Asia they were planning to expand its “Khilafah (caliphate).”
The Abu Sayyaf is now using the Daesh flag and also the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other radical groups in Lanao del Sur, also in the Muslim autonomous region where local militants of the Ghuraba (Strangers) – both the Ghuraba and Khilafah Islamiyah Movement are headed by a leader called Humam Abdul Najid, who was implicated in the 2013 Cagayan de Oro City bombings.
In October 2014, the jihadists Ghuraba had claimed that they established the Khilafah after courting other radical jihadists in the South to vow their allegiance to the Muslims’ caliph al-baghdadi.
The Ghuraba is reportedly harboring foreign militants, including an agent of the Jama’at al-tawhid waljihad, a group believed to be the original name of now infamous international threat group IS. The Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and Ghuraba militants declared jihad or holy war in February 1, 2013 following a deadly against security forces in Marawi City.
Sporadic fighting between security and Abu Sayyaf forces since early this week was also reported in Basilan and Sulu province, also in the Muslim region where militants had beheaded a Malaysian and two Canadian hostages, and is threatening to execute a kidnapped Norwegian man.
An ISIS propaganda photo shows some of its fighters in Iraq.