MANILA-- The announcement of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon's designation as the 'Emir' of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Southeast Asia indicates that the group is planning to expand in the Philippines.
This was stressed by Major Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, AFP Civil-Military Operations deputy chief-of-staff, during PTV-4's Countering Violent Extremism Forum Friday.
"So another indication of (ISIS) the expansion in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon was (earlier) declared by (ISIS leader) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the "Emir" in Southeast Asia," he added.
Feliciano also stressed that Hapilon decided to go to Lanao Del Sur because there was unrelenting military operations in the traditional Abu Sayyaf areas in Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu and the latter saw an opportunity to establish a caliphate in the province with the help of Maute Group and other local terrorist groups.
In the same forum, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, a Singaporean analysts on security affairs, said ISIS is looking at Philippines, especially Mindanao, after its failure to establish a caliphate in Indonesia.
The terror group's expansion started in 2014 when ISIS decided to go beyond the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Middle East and look into Africa, the Caucasus and Asia, he added in the network's Skype interview.
"The Philippines was selected because they could not establish a caliphate in Indonesia," Gunaratna added.
Also, in the Philippines, ISIS found local terrorist groups willing to support its extremism cause.
This includes Hapilon's group in Basilan, ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan band in Sulu and the Ansar Khalifa Philippines in the SOCCSKSARGEN region, and the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to name a few.
With these new alliances, Gunaratna said ISIS saw an opportunity to create a new threat landscape in the southern Philippines.
Source: Philippines News Agency