Group tied to IS active in Cotabato, says mayor
COTABATO CITY—Armed men linked to the Islamic State (IS) group have been recruiting city youths to undergo training on bomb-making, Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. has confirmed despite military and police denials.
“I was told about this in the past and that information was confirmed with the death of armed men in Palimbang, three of whom were from Cotabato City,” Guiani said. He was referring to the Nov. 27 clash in the town in Sultan Kudarat province between Army soldiers and armed men reportedly belonging to the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines.
The military had earlier reported recovering IS flags, along with high-powered firearms, from the battleground.
Guiani said he was alarmed and “deeply disturbed” by the information he had received that at least 30 young residents had been recruited by the IS-inspired Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines. They were promised daily food allowance and pocket money while training on bomb-making in the hinterlands of Palimbang, he said.
“This is alarming and that our security authorities should look into this seriously,” the mayor said. So far, the group has already recruited more than 1,000 people from various areas of Central Mindanao, he added.
Guiani said the group “targets minors, out-of-school youths and teenagers who are fond of reading the Koran.” Some of them had told their parents that they would study Islamic theology in General Santos City and Sultan Kudarat, he said.
He urged parents here to closely monitor their children in the face of the recruitment campaign. “Know the activities of your children. Monitor them in and out of school to prevent them from getting into the hands of fanatics,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, told reporters over the weekend that police and military authorities had yet to find solid proof that IS, a group of extremists which is establishing a caliphate in the Middle East, had gained a foothold in his area of jurisdiction, which includes Sultan Kudarat province.
The recovery of IS flags at the site of the clash in Palimbang was not enough for the military to draw a conclusion, Pangilinan said. The armed men might have just idolized the IS group so much that they also decided to use the IS flag, he added.
Using the IS flag could only mean that Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines wanted to draw national and global attention, the military official said.
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