Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'NO SUCH THING AS BALIK-ISLAM GROUP'/Security analyst notes inaccuracies in SolGen list of ISIS groups in Mindanao

Security analyst notes inaccuracies in SolGen list of ISIS groups in Mindanao

An international security analyst on Tuesday noted several inaccuracies in the list of alleged ISIS cell groups in Mindanao as enumerated by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

"When I saw the list, there are some inaccuracies in terms of the listing of those groups," Professor Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research, said.

Banlaoi said he was particularly appalled at the inclusion of Balik-Islam Group which he said was a general term used to refer to Muslim converts in the Philippines.

"I'm truly appalled to see Balik-Islam Group as part of the so-called ISIS sleeper cells in the country. There is no such thing as Balik-Islam Group," Banlaoi said.

"Balik-Islam is a general term used to describe all the Muslim converts in the Philippines and majority of the Balik-Islam groups in the Philippines, the majority of its followers, are moderates, peace-loving, tolerant, and democratic," he added.

The OSG enumerated 20 Mindanao-based ISIS sleeper cells who are allied with the Abu Sayyaf Group, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines, Maute group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to carry out terror acts in the region.

In 2017, the OSG said these groups alone accounted for "at least 43 violent attacks employing improvised explosive devices, harassment, and kidnapping" incidents.

The OSG submitted the memorandum in line with the consolidated petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate President Rodrigo Duterte's imposition of martial law in Mindanao amid the Marawi City crisis.


While Banlaoi admitted the existence of groups who pledged allegiance to ISIS, he said the Rajah Sulayman Islamic Movement and the Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon are the same; it is a group of radicalized Muslims embracing ISIS ideologies.
"Rajah Sulayman Islamic Movement is no longer an active group. It has transformed itself into a group of Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon. So if you will rely on the list provided by Solicitor General Calida, there is a double-entry of the same people representing two different groups," Banlaoi said.

The security analyst added that the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Al Harakatul Islamiyah also pertain to one militant faction.

"They put under two entries, like Al Harakatul Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf group. It's the same, Abu Sayyaf group is the original name of Al Harakatul Islamiyah. It's not a separate group," he said.

Banlaoi added that all the groups in the list belong to a larger organization—the Dawlat Al Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik—which is also named by the OSG.

Asked why the groups were disclosed only now, Banlaoi replied that the government can no longer deny and downplay the existence of ISIS-inspired groups.

"I think they can no longer deny the obvious, that the Philippines is in fact threatened by ISIS followers, and they are very active now. They are very eager to mount violent incidents in the name of ISIS. Downplaying them and denying the existence of these groups can no longer be done," he said.

Banlaoi, however, called on the OSG to clarify the list, saying it is troubling if the groups came from official intelligence sources.

"If [that] list is based on intelligence sources, now I am very, very worried about the way we gathered intelligence information because there are inaccurate listing of those groups. We need to rectify and put into proper contexts the nuances of these groups," Banlaoi said.


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