No evidence of IS recruitment in South–AFP
ZAMBOANGA CITY—The military is insisting there is no conclusive evidence that the terrorist Islamic State (IS) existed in Mindanao even as it admitted that a Malaysian jihadist had recently been killed in Basilan.
Earlier, at least two Mindanao politicians claimed that people associated with the dreaded IS, which was behind the recent terror attacks in Paris and Beirut to name a few, have been conducting recruitment drives in their areas. Alarm spread after soldiers reportedly recovered black IS flags after an encounter with armed men in nearby Sultan Kudarat last month.
In the past, Islamic extremists operating in Mindanao have been identified to be part of the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to the terror network al-Qaida, which had claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack in New York. The al-Qaida, whose founder Osama bin Laden was killed by United States Navy commandos in Pakistan in 2011, is said to have some differences with the newer IS.
Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, told reporters here on Tuesday they were very careful in associating the Abu Sayyaf with the IS or Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) “because we don’t have conclusive evidence that these ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) members are IS.”
“We cannot even say alleged IS or Isis, we are very careful about this,” dela Cruz said, in reaction to a video posted on the Internet wherein a man—speaking in Filipino—called on Muslims to join them in fighting the kafir (non-Muslims).
Brig. Gen. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade, said he, too, would not confirm that IS had reached Sulu, where the extremist Abu Sayyaf also operates.
“I don’t see one (an IS group) and I will not confirm any because it will only enhance their propaganda,” he said.
Despite the denials of the military, however, former Ungkaya Pukan Mayor Joel Maturan said he knew for a fact that there was IS recruitment going on in Basilan.
“I kept my silence after I was criticized for making it public…I know this group is still small,” he said.
Last month, Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. said he could confirm the recruitment activities of a group being linked to the IS in his area.
“I was told about this and the information was confirmed with the death of armed men in Palimbang, three of whom were from Cotabato City,” Guiani said.
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