Islamic militant groups merge to form ISIS in the Philippines

A propaganda video showed four Islamic militant groups in southern Philippines join forces and pledge allegiance to the leader of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS; the self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The video that was posted in the jihadi forum Shumukh al-Islam on January 4, 2016 but was immediately taken down showed Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon marching together with other leaders of Islamic extremist groups including Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines’ Abu Sharifa. The four groups previously individually declared allegiance to ISIS. The group may soon establish an ISIS wilayat or province in Mindanao.

The merger of the four Islamic militant groups suggests an agreement to execute ISIS’s goal of establishing a worldwide caliphate. Terror expert Rohan Gunaratna, the author of Inside al-Qaeda and the head of the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research in Singapore, told Rappler that the unifications of the Islamic militant groups in Mindanao pose a problem to the Philippine government and Australia.

“The recruits who cannot go to Syria because of travel restrictions will train in the Philippines and attack Australia and coalition interests on their return. As the soldiers of the caliphate in the Philippines, they will mount operations that will ­increasingly mirror Islamic State’s core in Syria and Iraq,” Gunaratna said. Last month, an unidentified Islamic militant group released a video that showed a secret jihadi training camp in Mindanao. It showed young recruits, called “soldiers of the caliphate in the Philippines,” undergoing weapons training. The Philippine military, however, downplayed the group’s alleged link to ISIS. “They’re not really ISIS. We view them as mere criminal gangs,” Colonel Restituto Padilla, a Philippine military spokesman, said.
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