FOREIGN terrorists who have been hiding in the Philippines and who have reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been trying to recruit local “suicide bombers” for the longest time but continue to fail, a ranking military intelligence official said.
The Army officer, who was instrumental in the capture of Indonesian father Rohman Al-Ghozi of Jemaah Islamiyah and who considers running after terrorists his “passion,” confirmed a report of The Manila Times that Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian, is among those actively recruiting Filipino Muslims for ISIS in Mindanao.
“There are at least two of them. Another is Mawiyah, a Singaporean,” the official said, speaking on condition that he would not be named.
The officer, who is assigned in Mindanao, said Marwan survived a military attack in Sulu years ago and has been “sighted” in Central Mindanao where his group continues to “indoctrinate” and “radicalize” young Muslim recruits.
“However, suicide bombing is not in our culture. We have a different culture wherein nobody here wants to blow himself up for any cause, no matter how religiously rewarding it is. Muslims, like any ordinary Filipinos, only want a better life,” the Army officer explained.
But he clarified that there is no active member of ISIS here.
“They have many forms of recruitment. Some are monitored. Some are not. There may be some Filipinos who went for training in Syria or Iraq but they are not there to pursue ISIS cause but only to train,” the officer said.
“And once there, they have no other option but to fight alongside other radicals. But surely they want to go back home,” he added.
Despite efforts by Marwan’s group to recruit suicide bombers, the best they could convince are “couriers,” or those tasked to place and detonate a bomb on a select target.
“It is nothing new to us [military]. There were only a few left today compared to, say, a decade ago. So, it should not cause undue panic,” the source said.
Unlike foreign terrorist groups who attack with impunity even on civilian targets, he said local terrorists have a different mindset. Most of them attack to retaliate or get even after an initial attack by their known enemies.
“Here, the mindset is that their enemies are us soldiers. The civilian populace is just a collateral damage. That’s why after every operation, it is common for us to brace up for retaliatory attacks. Retaliation is their greatest motivation here,” he pointed out.
Quoting an unnamed police intelligence official, the Times reported on Wednesday that Marwan, who has a $5 million bounty on his head, is joined in the recruitment by certain Quaim, Mawiya and Abu Saad, who are also JI members but have already pledged allegiance or ‘baai’ to ISIS.
The Army source, on the other hand, noted that Abu Saad was the name used by Al-Ghozi and that he was not sure if another has assumed the same name.
Al-Ghozi was killed in an encounter with government troops more than a decade ago.
Marwan and his group are reportedly targeting young Muslim recruits to undergo actual training in Iraq and Syria before bringing them back to the country where they are expected to propagate the ISIS doctrines.
Reports about the activities of Marwan’s group further bolstered earlier accounts that ISIS and its sympathizers have already entered and infiltrated various areas in southern Philippines.
“[They are now all in Mindanao and there is even a new guy], Abdurahman from Saudi Arabia,” the source said.