• IS claims attack in Basilan

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    KIDAPAWAN CITY: The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack in Basilan that claimed the lives of scores of soldiers, the first official admission made following the reported claim of a group calling itself Jundul Khilafah or Soldiers of the Caliphate operating in the country.

    “With the grace of God we were able to detonate seven trucks carrying soldiers,” the IS said in a statement on Wednesday.

    According to IS’s Amaq news agency, dozens of Filipino soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in Mindanao as IS fighters repelled a major campaign by the Philippine Army.

    “Islamic State fighters set up ambushes on roads used by Filipino forces, where they detonated explosive devices that blasted seven troop-carrying trucks, killing most of those aboard and injuring others, in addition to surprise attacks carried out against concentrations of enemy troops,” the agency said.

    “Several jihadi groups and battalions in the Philippines announced their joining of the Islamic State, the latest of which was Jund at-Tawhid Battalion of the Abu Sayyaf group, which announced its pledge of allegiance on the 20th of last month,” it added.

    The IS was referring to Jund at-Tawhid, also written as Jundul Tawhid, headed by Malaysian national Mohd Amin Baco.

    However, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said there is no truth to the
    claim that the group blew up seven trucks and that they killed 23 soldiers.

    “These are not true and inconsistent with the real events on the ground and we assess that this is a mere propaganda on the part of the larger group because they have taken notice of the events in this country. So propaganda as it is, we encourage everyone not to give this value because we are bent on finishing whatever operations we have ongoing,” Padilla pointed out.

    Previous reports said that Harakatul Islamiyah in Basilan, another faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group headed by Isnilon Hapilon, Dawlah Islamiya or Islamic State in Lanao headed by Abdullah Maute, Rajah Solaiman Movement in Luzon, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and Ansarul Khilafah in Sarangani had pledged support to the IS also known as ISIS or Daesh since 2014.

    Jihadists who identified themselves as Jundul Khilafah claimed responsibility for the attack in Basilan that killed 18 soldiers and wounded more than 50 others.

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there has been an attempt by the said group to connect to ISIS but so far, there is no direct link.

    “The Moroccan who was killed tried to unite these KFRGs (kidnap-for-ransom groups) and that’s what our mission here is all about. Prevent these groups from uniting and conspiring to create more terroristic activities,” Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, said.

    Detoyato was referring to Mohammad Khattab, a foreign terrorist killed during an encounter between members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and state troopers in Tipo Tipo, Basilan.

    “There is a difference between ISIS directed and ISIS-inspired. With the help of all peace loving Filipinos, we will prevail together,” he added.

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