ISIS’s New Ground in the Philippines

ISIS is spreading its influence, with Philippines as its next basecamp.

Economies are wrangled in protection and security agendas. The problem is that they are besieged by an internal force. A force that has been nurtured and bred by assailants that are power-hungry.

The newest sweltering place of conflict is the Philippines. Although Muslims in the southern Philippines have been fighting for decades for their separatist ideas victimising many, with insurgence of ISIS, violence has increased by several folds. Put in a bleaker sense, they have become unstoppable, they take their lives lightly, and they are extremely self-centred and merciless. Their war is bloody and ruthless and has no price. But, this is the question: How does one fight such people? There is no honour to die “in the battle against the infidels”, as ISIS members claim.

In the Philippines, many groups are supporters of ISIS; for example, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the Abu Sayyaf, both groups notoriously unpopular for kidnapping and several crimes. Both have publicly pledged allegiance to ISIS in YouTube videos. It is well known that ISIS was recruiting Filipinos for last few years, on the university, from the streets, in all possible places. More than 200 Filipinos have already left the country and joined the self-proclaimed Sunni Muslim “caliphate” which fights in Iraq and Syria, have undergone training, and have returned back to the Philippines to fight as jihadists. An Islamic caliphate has been established in the country, as their leaders say. Indonesia too, in similar trenches of animosity and terrorism. ISIS is also recruiting in Indonesia for the same reason – to fight for the Muslim cause.

Many connect recent suicide bombings in Jakarta and fighting on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao with ISIS. The most wanted person in the Philippines currently is Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction, for whose capture the United States has offered a $5 million reward. His group is famous for taking hostages who they sometimes kill. Their functions are on the same lines – financing their struggle with ransoms.

The big problem with the fight against terrorism is that both Indonesia and the Philippines have 25,000 islands and an almost non-patrolled ocean border, giving terrorists easy access by boat between the southern Philippines and eastern Indonesia, with no fear of being caught. However, the Philippines government, led by their President Rodrigo Duterte are raring to fight them in many ways and has the aid of the US military advisers in the Philippines. This revives hope that ISIS will not be able to complete its objective to make a new base in the Philippines.

With ISIS getting stronger by the day, and creating fear in the common man, one would fear that the cataclysm of rebellion and more destruction is not far, after all. That is not good news. The threat of terrorism is real and is proliferating, and not just in the Philippines. When there are people who do not want association, they are considered as infidels, no matter Christians or Muslims. Currently, the Philippines and Indonesia are threatened, but ISIS obviously has no intention to stop. The terrorist attacks in Europe, America and other regions, their expanding of influence in Asia, among Muslim militants, are all signs that ISIS is progressing in its intention to rule by fear, that they would reach their goals through blood, to create an Islamic state. However, with military backing that is strong and intent, there is still hope for the world, for peace.

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