Islamic extremism is growing in the southern Philippines, with alarming implications for the rest of Asia, reports Time.
For more than four decades, Islamist groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the Mindanao island group of southern Philippines.
Several have now pledged allegiance to ISIS, while one of their leaders – Sheik Mujahid Abu Abdullah al-Filipini from the Abu Sayyaf militia – was been appointed ISIS’s leader in the Philippines.
The Philippine army is currently attempting to strike at the group’s jungle stronghold on the island of Basilan.
In one of the bloodiest days for the armed forces in years, 18 soldiers were killed and over 50 wounded on 9 April. ISIS claimed responsibility. Shortly afterwards, Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Filipino hostages. (The group is also holding 10 Indonesians, two Canadians and a Norwegian captive. However, last week, it released a former Italian missionary priest it had held for six months.
“It’s very likely that [Abu Sayyaf] will declare a satellite of the caliphate in the coming year,” Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert at S. Rajaratnam School of Security Studies in Singapore, told Time. “Once that is done, it will be much more difficult to dismantle these groups.
“Recent arrests in Malaysia and Indonesia clearly show that a new terror attack from ISIS in the region is imminent. And the next one will be bloodier.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Star reports: “In the southern Philippines, we have jihadists pushing to advance their particular umma [Muslim community]; separatists pushing for autonomy of varying degrees, up to and including full independence; Communist proponents of protracted armed struggle aimed at eventually causing the state to wither away entirely; pre-Hispanic sultanates claiming various territorial rights; right down to rido – clan disputes over property or seeking to avenge past wrongs.”