Terrorism is necessarily rooted in religion and is international in character

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MARGARITA ‘TINGTING’ COJUANGCO

Part 3 of a series
WHILE the Philippines has not been formally declared as a province or wilayat, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) has endorsed the Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan as emir for Southeast Asia. Southeast Asians in Syria have pledged their loyalty to him.

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The Philippines is important because as far as the IS leadership is concerned, it is the extension of the international caliphate in-the-making in the region.

The Abu Sayyaf is loyal to IS and the ASG in Basilan respects Hapilon as the declared emir of the IS command, which they call Daulah Islamiyah, or the Moro Islamic State. The term amir (or emir) was first used to refer to Hashim Salamat as head and commander of the MILF in the 1970s.

Hapilon travels to different Philippine destinations, including to the Maute group’s IS-Ranao in Butig, Lanao del Sur, which is under his domain. After Hapilon was named emir for the Philippines by IS general emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in April 2016, the Mautes began using the name IS-Ranao to indicate a division of the new as-yet-undeclared province of IS – the BIFF became IS-Maguindanao and Hapilon’s territory was called IS-Basilan.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) pledged allegiance to IS in 2017. There are reports that most of the sniper rifles used by the Maute group in the siege of Marawi came from the BIFF in Maguindanao.

Omarkhayam Romato Maute studied at Egypt’s al-Azhar University. After graduation in 2009, Omar went to Bekasi, outside Jakarta, to a non-jihadi boarding school, where he taught for a while before returning to Lanao del Sur. He is fluent in Bahasa and Arabic.

His brother, Abdullah, studied in Jordan and is reported to have extensive ties in the Middle East.

The Maute group began the training unit set up by Marwan around 2011 or earlier. By 2012, it had become the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM). The use of “KIM” as a name is in honor Ustadz Sanusi, the Indonesian from Central Java who reportedly became a mentor to the Maute brothers. Sanusi was based in Lanao for six years until his death in a police operation at the Mindanao State University on November 2, 2012.

The Maute group claimed to have bombed a Cagayan de Oro bistro on July 26,2013, that killed six people, and the Davao market on September 2, 2016, in collaboration with Ansarul Khalifa Philippines (AKP). The bombing was ordered by Hapilon.

The AKP is led by Mohammad Jaafar Maguid Ansarul Khilafah alias Tokboy, based in Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat province with ties in Indonesia and Syria. He joined IS as Abu Sharifa. Tokboy was a member of the MILF’s Special Operations Group (SOG) and the 105th base command under Ameril Umbra Kato. After the collapse of peace talks with the government in 2008, Tokboy left the MILF and started recruiting students from General Santos, Cotabato and Lanao del Norte universities. He and his men were responsible for an attack in August 2008 in Maasim, Sarangani. Tokboy’s important IS connections are Saifullah Ibrahim and Mohammed Reza Kiram.

On February 20, 2016, the military began an 11-day offensive after the Maute fighters attacked the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion. In the initial attack, two soldiers and six attackers were killed. Among the casualties was an Indonesian identified as Mohammad Muktar. BIFF fighters reportedly supported the Mautes. When it was over, the military claimed to have killed 54 terrorists. Finally in 2017, the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched an attack on the Mautes. The Maute have shown an ability to clash with the police and military. The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) suggests that their organization is larger and more organized.

Osama Bin Laden’s 1996 fatawa focused on US interventionism globally; his 1998 fatawa advocated violent response to eliminate US presence and its allies. The World Islamic Front statement of February 2, 1998 which asserted the international character of terrorism and its rootedness in Islamic doctrine were strategic in the intensification of terrorist activities and attacks worldwide.

Consequently, in the Philippines, Afghan veterans like Muklos Yunos of Sawir, Masui, Lanao del Sur, of the MILF Special Operations Group (SOG), worked with the JI for the planning and execution of bombings in Manila on Rizal Day 2000, General Santos City, Davao airport, and Zamboanga City.

Insep Murjaman alias Riduan Isamuddin of West Java, Indonesia, better known by the nom de guerre, Hambali, was an Afghan veteran and former military leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah. A Muslim cleric, Hambali was No. 2 in the JI hierarchy. He arrived in Manila on December 16, 2000, to plan the simultaneous attacks in Metro Manila financed by the MILF through Muklos. He checked out the United States Embassy. As Bin Laden’s lieutenant for Southeast Asia, Hambali was often described as “the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.” As JI chief of operations, he coordinated all terrorist activities in Southeast Asia.

(To be continued)

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