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Claws of terrorism

By: Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The claws of terrorism have made their presence felt in Marawi City where the battle between government forces and the Maute group, inspired and supported by the dreaded Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), rages on.

Military leaders initially denied that ISIS had a part in the rampage caused by the Maute group. Instead, they put the blame on home-based terrorists allegedly trying to imitate ISIS and its sadistic ways in instilling fear among the people to gain some recognition and funding from it.

But among the first 33 fighters from the Maute group-led terrorists killed by government forces in Marawi were nine foreigners reportedly from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Chechnya.

Rohan Gunaratna, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, revealed that ISIS has been building up the Philippines to be one of many regional hubs for its terror network.

Gunaratna explained that local groups would say they have joined ISIS and would get recognition. They would then use ISIS flags, slogans, conduct ISIS-style attacks and follow the broad guidelines issued by ISIS to establish its presence in the country.

This is how ISIS has been building links with groups in Asia.

ISIS has been providing funds and encouraging foreign jihadists to go to the Philippines. Abu Naila from Belize was killed in January. Qatab from Morocco suffered the same fate last year.

In its report, Reuters quoted sources from the Philippine intelligence as saying that as many as 40 among the 400 to 500 fighters who attacked Marawi City on May 23 were Malaysians, Indonesians, a Pakistani, a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Chechen, a Moroccan, an Indian and one having a Turkish passport.

After studying abroad, the Maute brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah returned to the country and established the Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM) together with Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan”. However, KIM was disbanded after Marwan was killed in a police raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.

The Maute group then pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and joined Isnilon Hapilon who was appointed ISIS leader in the Philippines. Together, they planned and executed the Marawi siege.

Now that we have foreigners coming in and beefing up the ISIS-backed Maute group, terrorism must be stopped at the soonest possible time before it grows into a formidable threat to the whole country and the entire region.

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