Australia worried over spread of IS influence in Mindanao

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY - Australia is extremely worried over over the spread of influence of the Islamic State in Asia, particularly in southern Philippines where the Abu Sayyaf and other jihadist groups pledged allegiance to the notorious group.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned that a new Islamic caliphate could be declared in southern Philippines and could threaten Australia – right at its doorstep.

And The Australian newspaper in an editorial article published just recently, said the signs, as Bishop has indicated, are ominous: Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf group has pledged loyalty to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-baghdadi. Like Baghdadi, he has been declared an “emir”, which Bishop says suggests Islamic State may be about to formally declare a caliphate in the southern Philippines.

“This move is said to have boosted support for Abu Sayyaf among Islamic extremists on Mindanao. Reports indicate hundreds of trained Islamic State fighters recruited from Southeast Asia to go to Syria and Iraq will return not to their home countries but to link up with Abu Sayyaf on Mindanao.”

“In recent months, there have been Philippines police accounts of a specialist Islamic State bomb maker from Morocco and Uighur Islamic militants from China arriving clandestinely. Malaysian, Indonesian, Bangladeshi and even Rohingya militants from the oppressed Muslim minority in Myanmar also are said to be among those recruited,” it said.

Bishop, according to The Australian, was said to have discussed the growing threat with President Rodrigo Duterte in his home city of Davao in March and the Filipino leader has made no bones about his belief that the biggest threat facing his country is “terrorism… it’s sure to come.”

It said at a recent Washington meeting of the coalition fighting Islamic State, Bishop again sounded the alarm among fellow foreign ministers, warning that, as the caliphate in Iraq and Syria faces defeat, “we don’t want to see it re-emerge elsewhere in the world, otherwise we’ll be back in a few years talking about how to defeat a caliphate in the southern Philippines. A caliphate in our region would be a disaster for the fight against Islamic extremism.”

After Bishop’s warning, Manila’s regional partners, particularly Australia and the United States, must do all that is possible to ensure that it does not become a reality, it added.

An ISIS propaganda photo shows some of its fighters in Iraq.

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