ISIS recruiting in Central Mindanao, says MILF

black flag
BLACK FLAG. Filipinos carry the black flag in the southern Philippines. Sourced by Rappler
The MILF says some students and young professionals are encouraged to join ISIS out of frustration

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Jan. 26, 2016) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Tuesday, January 26, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (also known as ISIS, IS, ISIL or Da’esch) is indeed recruiting members in at least 3 provinces in Central Mindanao.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said this is a concern for the MILF, which has signed a peace agreement with the Aquino administration and has vowed to shun terrorism.

The MILF central committee formed a task force to look into reports that personalities claiming to have links with ISIS are recruiting young professionals in Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, according to Iqbal.

“The recruitment as well the video of their training that came out are authentic,” Iqbal said.

He’s referring to the video that began circulating early January and which showed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon marching with other extremist leaders from Sulu and Basilan, pledging allegiance to ISIS.

“Whether or not there is already a formal organization of the ISIS in Mindanao, that is still a subject for validation,” Iqbal said.

But while the Philippine government and military remain steadfast in their statements that there are no operational links between ISIS and Filipino groups, a traditional “order of battle” analysis may be moot in today’s threat landscape given ISIS’ ability to spark homegrown attacks like in Paris, wrote Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa.

On October 26, 2015, 8 armed men carrying the flag of ISIS, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed in an encounter with government forces in Sultan Kudarat. The government troops recovered from the scene 5 ISIS flags and documents including radios, firearms and explosive materials.

Iqbal said that as part of the MILF’s efforts to promote peace in the region they formed a task force that will study and correct the wrong teachings of Islam used by ISIS recruiters.

“Our task force is composed of members of influential Islamic preachers in Mindanao. Islamic teachings were used in the recruitment but it’s distorted. They are going to study it and correct the teachings,” he said.

Iqbal cited two primary reasons why students and young professionals in the region are being encouraged to join ISIS.

“They are frustrated. They think their Muslim leaders in the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front have abandoned their struggle. The failure passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is also a source of frustration,” he explained. The BBL suffered delays in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash in January 2015.

Maguindanao Governor Ismael Mangudadatu maintained his province is ISIS-free.

“There might be in other areas of Mindanao but I can assure you that our province is still free,” the governor said.

The military has also dismissed reports that ISIS may soon declare a province in Mindanao, saying these statements are more aspirational than real.


rappler_64  by Jeff Maitem | Rappler.com