CLARK, Pampanga: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday that the Philippines has received a “long list” of names of returning fighters, including “a couple of Filipinos” from Iraq and Syria.
“Recently, I got a message from our Embassy in Baghdad and we have this information from Kurdish Intelligence and they have a long list of names of Malaysians and Indonesians fighting in Iraq [including]a couple of Filipinos,” Lorenzana told a joint press conference with Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne here.
He added that the Philippines, as well as other concerned countries, has been warned by Australia and the US whose troops have been fighting terrorists in the Middle East.
“This has become a collective effort by the regional defense establishments,” Lorenzana said.
For her part, Payne stressed that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should also consider the return of these fighters not just as a defense issue but also an immigration issue.
“We think about people who have been part of the daesh campaigns in Iraq and Syria. They are battle trained, they are battle hardened, they are extremists of the highest order who have been prepared to do the most appalling things using civilians as human shields and using civilians as collaterals in their efforts to try their converted ideology,” Payne said.
Payne’s statement comes days after the Philippines ended its five-month war against Islamist extremists in Marawi City where three local terrorist leaders – Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Omar Maute, one of the founders of the Maute group and Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, Maute financier – were killed in separate military assaults.