Friday, July 8, 2016

IS supporters heading to southern Philippines

From New Straits Times Online (Jul 7): IS supporters heading to southern Philippines

In what is seen as a desperate attempt to increase their wavering manpower, Malaysian terrorists in the Philippines, who have before openly renounced their citizenships, have established a new battalion to continue their extremist struggles.

The new battalion, called the Katibah Al-Muhajir or Battalion of Migrants, was created to persuade supporters and sympathisers to join the Islamic State cause.

This was revealed by terrorism expert Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

“Now we have seen that in the Philippines, IS has created Katibah Al-Muhajir, the Battalion of Migrants. They are (made up of) Malaysians and Indonesians,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the battalion was created in response to the failure of recruits from Southeast Asia to travel to the Middle East to join IS.

The announcement, said Rohan, was made by IS in a propaganda video last month.“IS said that those (intending to join IS) from Southeast Asia need not (go) to Syria and Iraq if it is difficult, that (it is better) for them to go to the Philippines,” he said.

Malaysian police, in particular the Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division operatives, are checking the veracity of the claims and the propaganda video.

In response to a question, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the NST that police were investigating the matter.

Rohan said intelligence showed that the battalion had recruited a number of Malaysians.

“There are about 10 Malaysians (there now),” he said.

The centre of operation for the new battalion, Rohan said, was in Basilan, an island province of the Philippines within the autonomous region in Muslim-majority Mindanao.

The Sulu archipelago, which is known as the home of Philippine militancy, was chosen following a declaration that it was the “soil of the caliphate”, he said.

Rohan said militants and radicals in Southeast Asia were already heading to the new rally point, shifting their direction from Syria and Iraq.

“We have seen, since the last few weeks, one or two people (who) were going from Southeast Asia to Syria and Iraq are instead going to the Philippines.

“The Philippines can be a very important launching pad to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore because southern Philippines is very centrally located.”

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