Terrorism expert: M’sians among members of new pact in Philippines

Rommel-Banlaoi-Msians-among-members-of-new-pact-in-Philippines-1PETALING JAYA: Foreigners, including Malaysians, are among members of a new pact of pro-Islamic State (IS) groups and communists that have closed ranks in southern Philippines, an expert says.

Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research Rommel Banlaoi was quoted as saying that five groups had formed the “tactical alliance”.

They are remnants of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups responsible for the siege on Marawi city, the Dawlah Islamiyah, a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and communist insurgent group the New People’s Army (NPA).

The alliance is “supported by radical volunteers from Indonesia, Malaysia and other Muslim countries”, Gulf News reported.

The first four groups have pledged allegiance to IS while the NPA was declared a terrorist organisation by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on Dec 5.

“Government agencies involved in security bared this recent development which could have implications on the current government campaign against the groups behind the Marawi adventure and the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA),” Banlaoi was quoted as saying by Gulf News.

He was speaking during a recent lecture on national security at the National Defence College of the Philippines.

Paweł Wójcik, an analyst focusing on Southeast Asian terrorism issues for Polish current affairs site www.mpolska24.pl/, said such a pact was possible.

“I think that there might be some sort of cooperation, especially in south Cotabato where recent Abu Turaifi (alias of Esmail Abdulmalik, BIFF leader) attacks coincided with similar attacks claimed by the military to be made by the NPA,” Wójcik told FMT.

Philippine and Malaysian authorities have publicised several names of Malaysian militants involved in the Marawi attacks.

However, the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) told FMT that based on chatter on IS-related communication channels, it believed more than 30 Malaysians were taking part in the Marawi siege.

Some of the Marawi militants are still unaccounted for, following the official conclusion to the war on Oct 23.

These include a Malaysian from Sabah, Amin Baco, one of several people touted as the new leader of IS in the region following the death of Isnilon Hapilon, IS emir-designate for Southeast Asia.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Malaysians are with the new alliance,” Wójcik told FMT.

“This is especially taking into consideration that at least 185 IS militants on the Philippine armed forces’ list of terrorists responsible for the Marawi invasion are still at large.

“And we know that Malaysians and Indonesians were among them, including the famous Amin Baco.”

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