Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Islamic State Inroads in the Philippines

"I don't like to fight. But this is our land and we will not let them take this like they destroyed Marawi."
"That's why I have these [.45-caliber pistol and revolver]."
Commander Hangilang, Christian militia fighter, Datusalibo, Philippines

"They [Islamic State local groups] may be close to being defeated in Marawi, but they can spread out."
Commander Asiong, spokesman, Red God's Army

"[My Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters were] swimming while attacking [Islamic State fighters], because the swamp waters are very deep."
Von al-Haq, MILF military commander

"It's an open mostly flat marshland, where you are open to sniper fire."
"When you enter the swamps, you've already dug your own grave."
"We used to fight the MILF, but they are now fighting alongside us. So what is the bigger enemy? It is the Daesh-inspired groups."
Nassrolah Gani, 35, Philippine police officer

"They have won the battle strategically, as they have proven how long they can endure the fight against government forces. [The Marawi battle an example of] martyrdom that can inspire others."
"Mindanao will continue to suffer the challenges of armed conflicts and violence because of many issues associated with the struggle of the people there for self-determination being advocated by the Muslim  forces. It has simply become the new land of jihad."
Rommel Banlaoi, security analyst, Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research
Armed police keep watch as men suspected of being Marawi militants arrive at the Department of Justice in Manila in July.
Armed police keep watch as men suspected of being Marawi militants arrive at the Department of Justice in Manila in July. Photo: AP

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant may be on the brink of dissolving their presence in Syria and Iraq, losing the territory that made up the vast and growing empire of their caliphate as the U.S.-led coalition, the Kurdish military forces, Russian air cover, Hezbollah, Shiite militias and the Iranian Republican Guard Corps and Turkish forces give inestimable aid to the less-than-doughty and reliable Iraqi and Syrian military as they ush back against the terrorist group, but they still have a notable presence in Afghanistan, Libya and the Philippines.

Not to mention their supporters elsewhere in the world responding to the incitement to jihad spurred on by the public relations arm of the Islamic State, ready, eager and willing to do their part to further the aspirations of Islamic State. In majority-Catholic-Christian Philippines, an Islamist backlash against the prevailing order has kept government forces busy for years. Local Islamists on Mindanao were known for their kidnapping proclivities, holding foreigners for ransom and dispatching them when foreign governments failed to respond.

The growing menace of the influence of Islamic State was fully realized when local militias allied with ISIL and proclaiming themselves loyal to the terrorist group, attacked Marawi, and government troops and police responded resulting in a full-blown battle situation. Leaving the town catastrophically crushed with scant little to show for the government victory. What has occurred, however, is that traditional Islamist groups are fighting back against the Islamic State militias, aligning themselves with government forces.

Commander Ilangilang, formerly involved in fighting the Philippine army now is dedicated, along with her militia group to helping that army to forestall an anticipated next large Islamic State uprising. Fighting in the marshlands about 200 kilometers south of Marawi, the local militias fear their villages and farms will be next on the ISIL agenda and that the black flag of Islamic State will be geared to fly high and triumphant over the towns of Datu Salibo and Kauran.

The army, the MILF militia and Islamic State militants have been battling in a large swamp, with the alliance on the winning edge, reporting the recovery of improvised bombs and Islamic State flags. Police Officer Gani reports the intelligence that a number of Malaysian fighters, inspired by Islamic State, have joined the ISIL group, despite the recent death of its local leader.

Another frontier: groups in the south of the Philippines have pledged allegiance to IS.
Another frontier: groups in the south of the Philippines have pledged allegiance to IS. Photo: AP

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