A Malaysian terrorist believed to be a sympathizer of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and who may have been involved in several bombings in Mindanao is still in the country, a source from the intelligence service of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Saturday.
The intelligence officer identified the Malaysian as Amin Baco, who also goes by the alias Abu Jihad. The officer provided The Manila Times a photo of Baco, who he said is a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
According to the source, Baco has pledged allegiance to the ISIS.
“Amin Baco or Abu Jihad is a JI member and he has been in the country for a long period,” the source, who goes by the codename “Pokemon,” said. He added that Baco had a hand in past bombings in Basilan and Sulu.
The officer also showed the Times a chart of the structure of the Khilafa Islamiyah Movement (KIM), which, like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), pledged allegiance to ISIS.
He said Baco’s photo and the flow chart were extracted from the mobile phone of one of the ASG members killed during a recent battle with government security forces in Sulu.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said reports about the recruitment of ISI members in the country have not been verified.
“They are basically correct in saying that there’s no IS member that came from Syria who is presently here in the country. But the idea of establishing an Islamic caliphate is already here,” the source said.
He noted that Buco is one of the five JI members who had been hiding in Sulu under the protection of the ASG that last week threatened to behead one of two Germans they are holding if their demand for a P250 million ransom was not paid.
The intelligence officer said the ASG may behead the Germans —Stefan Victor Okonek, 70, and Herike Diesen, 55—as a show of sympathy to ISIS. Jihadists have beheaded American, British and French journalists in the past weeks.
“The ASG is a supporter of ISIS, they have already pledged allegiance to ISIS and they (ASG) are waiting for the reply. It could be that they threatened to behead the German hostages so they would be noticed,” he explained.
Meanwhile, local leaders urged Muslims not to join extremists groups amid reports that the influence of ISIS on local jihadist groups had grown.
“The practice of extremism is not allowed [in Islam]. Let us not join them,” Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said, citing reports that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) had been influenced by the ISIS to persuade members to pledge their allegiance or bai’ah to ISIS.
“They should not be extreme, God did not command [humans] to kill in order to gain peace in their religion,” the governor said.
He appealed to the public to immediately report to the authorities any activities of groups that had expressed sympathy to the ISIS.
An expert explained that bai’ah is mostly given by the Muslim sect Sufi and extremists groups, including the JI.
“Many of the members [of JI] also felt psychologically trapped by the bai’ah that they have given to the leaders. They fear that by leaving the group or disobeying the orders, they would be committing grave sin that would incur the wrath of God because the pledge that they made was in His name. They also fear being labeled as traitor or betrayer,” Muhammad Haniff Hassan, a famous Malaysian expert on counter ideology, said in a post on his website.
Reports said that in Marawi City, the bai-ah was conducted inside the Masjid Islamic Center on September 19 by civilians. The event was reportedly organized by a Muslim cleric, Jamil “Mutawwa” Yahya.
After confirming the report, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. condemned the incident and vowed to prevent local groups from joining the armed movement.
The incident is still being investigated by the authorities, but a police officer who verified the report said members of the KIM were behind the gathering.
The KIM, also known as Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao-Black Flag Movement, has been striving for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the country since 2011.