Philippine Army says at least 4 local terror groups affiliated with ISIS
MANILA, Philippines — At least four local terrorist groups in the country are affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) even before the 2017 siege of Marawi City, the Philippine Army (PA) said on Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, said there is a “clear and present threat” of terrorism in the country, amid mounting criticism on the anti-terror bill that aims to toughen up the anti-terrorism measures of the government.
“Before the Marawi crisis, we have monitored four to five local terrorist groups. We have the Abu Sayyaf Group, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in Maguindanao, Maute in Lanao, of course, BIFF the Turaife Group. These are local terror groups that have sworn allegiance and followed ISIS-inspired [ideologies],” Gapay said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Gapay said there are still remnants of the Maute group after the Marawi siege, but noted that even if it has lain low, the group is now focused on recruitment and is building up logistics and finances for future terror attacks.
Currently, local terrorist groups are recruiting the youth through religious education and radicalization in schools, particularly in Muslim areas, according to the Army chief.
He stressed that the anti-terror bill, which is now only awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte for it to become law, will help the military go after terrorists before they can launch offensives.
“This time, we want to be more proactive and comprehensive in addressing this terrorism problem that we have, and one way to do this is to really have a law that will enable law enforces to really go after them, prevent and deter [their actions] even before they launch the terroristic acts,” he said.
Amid fears of possible abuse, Gapay said the anti-terror bill has a “clear cut” definition of terrorism and of who are considered as terrorists.
“Let me assure the people that we will be discriminate on this. We will really focus on the terrorists and we will protect the people. We really want their support on this so that terrorism would really be addressed comprehensively and will be defeated,” he said.
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