Muslim rebels confirm ongoing recruitment of ISIS in southern Philippines

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao, Jan. 27 – The Philippines largest Muslim rebels, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), confirmed Wednesday the ongoing widespread recruitment of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Central Mindanao in the southern Philippines, prompting their central committee to form a task force to look into the serious problem.

MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said the recruitment of young professionals managed by personalities claiming to have links with ISIS are taking place in Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces.

“The recruitment as well the video of their training that came out were authentic,” Iqbal said.

“But whether or not there is already a formal organisation of the ISIS in Mindanao, that is still a subject for validation,” he added.

On October 26 last year, eight armed men carrying the flag of ISIS, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed in an encounter with government forces in Sultan Kudarat. The government troops recovered five ISIS flags and documents including radios, firearms and explosive materials from the suspects’ possession.

ISIS, which claimed responsibilities for the Jakarta and Paris attacks, earlier announced in a video they released they have forces in the country and they are planning to set up their territory in Mindanao.

Iqbal said as part of their effort to promote peace in the region they formed a task force that will study and correct the wrong teachings of Islam used by people in the recruitment.

“Our task force compose of members of influential Islamic preachers in Mindanao. Islamic teachings were used in the recruitment but its distorted. They are going to study it and correct the teachings,” he said.

Iqbal cited two primary reasons why students and young professionals were encourage to join the organisation.

“They are frustrated. They though their Muslim leaders in the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front have abandoned their struggle. The failure passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law is also a source of frustration,” he explained.

Maguindanao Governor Ismael Mangudadatu maintained his province is still free from ISIS.

“There might be in other areas of Mindanao but i can assure our province is still free,” the governor said.

Based on the intelligence report gathered by Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. around 1000 have been recruited in central Mindanao and 30 of them came from his city.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Udasan, grand mufti of the Darul Ifta of the Philippines, said earlier the reports about IS in Mindanao is disturbing and alarming as they openly flouts the teachings of the Quran.

Malacañang said there is no “credible and “verified” terrorist threat in the Philippines posed by the extremist group ISIS. (End)

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