The leaders of the Maute Group, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, as well as Isnilon Hapilon, planned to kill Christians in Mindanao after taking Marawi City, security officials said Sunday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Eduardo Año said the three top terrorists wanted to seize Marawi City and turn it into an Islamic caliphate on the first day of Ramadan.
In a briefing on Sunday, Año said the terrorists planned to kill “many” non-Muslims to prove that they have established an Islamic state in Asia.
However, the military repulsed the Maute Group’s attempt to take Marawi City, engaging the militants in fierce gun battles that had so far killed 191 terrorists and dozens of soldiers and civilians.
An analyst in Singapore agreed that ISIS terrorists are eyeing the Philippines as another base of operations after failing to establish a caliphate in Indonesia.
Rohan Gunaratna, a Singaporean analyst on security affairs, said the terror group’s expansion began in 2014 when ISIS decided to go beyond the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Middle East and set its sight on Africa, the Caucasus and Asia.
“The Philippines was selected because they (ISIS) could not establish a caliphate in Indonesia,” Gunaratna said in an interview during the Countering Violent Extremism Forum held by PTV-4.
He added that ISIS also found in the Philippines local terrorist groups willing to support its extremism cause.
These include Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon’s group in Basilan, Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan’s band in Sulu, the Ansar Khalifa Philippines in the Soccsksargen region, the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
With these new alliances, Gunaratna said, the ISIS saw an opportunity to create a new threat landscape in the southern Philippines.