MANILA (Mabuhay) – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman dismissed reports that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have gotten into the region.
Hataman attributed the connection merely to bandit groups in the region identifying with the notorious jihadist group’s “line of thinking.”
“Ang tingin ko rito nakikisakay lang dito sa uso-uso, dahil uso ang ISIS,” he said. “At walang additional security threat kung magpahayag na ‘sinusuportahan namin ang ISIS’ dahil ‘yung line of thinking nila pareho rin.”
Hataman said the provincial government is coordinating with its local counterparts and has so far gathered no information about the speculated presence of ISIS members.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has aired its support for ISIS, are known to have forces in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
Recently, a mosque in Marawi City brought out the ISIS flag to show its support to the group, it added.
Earlier reports had quoted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former President Fidel V. Ramos as saying that ISIS was training at least 100 Filipinos.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is investigating the reports, said it has yet to receive any verified information on any recruitment activities by ISIS in the Philippines.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has a signed a peace deal with the government, has also pledged support to ISIS.
Last Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III expressed the country’s intetion to assist in the United States’ campaign against the ISIS.
Meanwhile, the military will be sending additional troops to Mindanao in line with the threat that could be posed by ISIS.
The 501st Infantry Brigade and its attached units from Northern Luzon will be assigned to Western Mindanao for additional forces in Sulu, while the 21st and 41st Infantry Battalions will be sent to Zamboanga Peninsula, the report said.
The 501st Infantry Brigade was previously stationed to keep watch over the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, and Benguet, including Baguio City, it added. (MNS)