United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Monday said the US and the Philippines are monitoring “very closely” the recruitment of Islamic State (ISIS) jihad fighters from southern Mindanao and other parts of the world.
“We and the Philippine government are watching it very closely and it concerns us wherever it may be taking place,” the envoy said during the 5th Kapihan sa Embahada held at the US Embassy in Manila.
However, he noted that the concern is not focused on the Philippines because “it’s [recruitment]is everywhere, including in the West.”
“We’re concerned about the idea of ISIS trying to recruit foreign fighters all around the world,” Goldberg said.
Earlier reports claimed that some 100 Filipinos were recruited by the ISIS and went to Syria this year for training.
“We know that there are foreign fighters who have gone to the Middle East from the United States from the United Kingdom, from all over Europe, Australia, and other places and so we’re concerned about it wherever it may happen,” the envoy said.
The al-Qaeda-linked ISIS hogged headlines in the past months after its beheading of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker David Haines, because of the US military operations in Syria and Iraq.
Goldberg admitted that areas in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines are “possible places for recruitment.”
Rebels in the Mindanao region, specifically members of the
Abu Sayyaf (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have links to al-Qaeda network.
Goldberg said the Islamic State, which currently still holds two more Americans, “is a different kind of threat.”
“[It is] something that the whole world now faces and we have undertaken a very strong policy and series of actions to degrade and destroy this organization.”
US President Barack Obama announced an aggressive military campaign against ISIS last week as scores of US air strikes found its way on select targets in Iraq.
Recruiting fighters from around the world is an important “issue” for the Middle East and the international community, in general, Goldberg said.
“So it’s something that we all need to be concerned about and the US is leading an international coalition to deal with the issue of ISIS,” he added.