Aquino denies “imminent terror threat” to the Philippines

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Mindanao terror group
The main candidate for an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia is the Philippines’ Sulu archipelago, experts say.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on January 15 in a press conference stated that there were “no credible or imminent terror threats” to the Philippines after the ISIS-related bombing and shooting in Jakarta happened the previous day.

However, the President conceded that there was a “general threat.”

“Is there a credible threat? Is there a specific threat? There is none. Is there general threat? Yes. We are not immune to the problem of extremism that is happening,” Aquino said.

“But we can’t be like an ostrich, which burrows its head in the ground to avoid seeing the problem,” he said

He added that Philippine intelligence authorities would ask their Middle East counterparts to monitor possible radicalisation within the Filipino community in the region, which numbers to more than two million  as the government in Manila is concerned that IS jihadists could recruit Filipinos working in the Middle East.

In particular, Aquino said a Filipino-Lebanese and a Filipino-Saudi Arabian, both of whom were living abroad and never resided in the Philippines, had reportedly been recruited by ISIS.

Authorities are currently also monitoring an emerging terrorist organisation that could become the local arm of the Middle East jihadi group called Ansar Khalifa Philippines, which has ties to another ISIS-aligned Indonesian jihadi organisation Mujahidin Indonesia Timur.

Just recently, several Islamic militant groups in the southern Philippines including Abu Sayyaf seemed to have joined forces to create a satellite of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, making Mindanao their base.

Politicians and terrorism experts have repeatedly warned that ISIS could gain a territorial foothold or at least establish a satellite presence in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s Prime MInister Lee Hsien Loong last year warned that ISIS could “establish a base somewhere in the region,” a geographical area under its physical control like in Syria or Iraq.

Southeast Asia has already emerged as a key recruitment center for ISIS, with more than 500 Indonesians and dozens of Malaysians joining the group and forming their own unit in Syria, the Katibah Nusantara Lil Daulah Islamiyah (Malay Archipelago Unit of the Islamic State), intelligence reports reveal One goal of this unit is to spread the reach of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and it is likely seeking to set up a base either in Indonesia or the Philippines or both in 2016, Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based terrorism expert, warns.

“An ISIS foothold will present far-reaching security implications for the stability and prosperity for a rising Asia,” he added. The main candidate for an ISIS branch, Gunaratna argued, is the Philippines.

“Shortly, ISIS will declare a satellite of the caliphate in the Sulu archipelago,” Gunaratna wrote in a recent analysis in The Straits Times.

To preempt this, Gunaratna urged the Philippine military to deploy in strength in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well as focus on “winning Muslim hearts and minds to reduce ISIS support.”

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The main candidate for an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia is the Philippines’ Sulu archipelago, experts say.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on January 15 in a press conference stated that there were “no credible or imminent terror threats” to the Philippines after the ISIS-related bombing and shooting in Jakarta happened the previous day.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mindanao terror group
The main candidate for an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia is the Philippines’ Sulu archipelago, experts say.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on January 15 in a press conference stated that there were “no credible or imminent terror threats” to the Philippines after the ISIS-related bombing and shooting in Jakarta happened the previous day.

However, the President conceded that there was a “general threat.”

“Is there a credible threat? Is there a specific threat? There is none. Is there general threat? Yes. We are not immune to the problem of extremism that is happening,” Aquino said.

“But we can’t be like an ostrich, which burrows its head in the ground to avoid seeing the problem,” he said

He added that Philippine intelligence authorities would ask their Middle East counterparts to monitor possible radicalisation within the Filipino community in the region, which numbers to more than two million  as the government in Manila is concerned that IS jihadists could recruit Filipinos working in the Middle East.

In particular, Aquino said a Filipino-Lebanese and a Filipino-Saudi Arabian, both of whom were living abroad and never resided in the Philippines, had reportedly been recruited by ISIS.

Authorities are currently also monitoring an emerging terrorist organisation that could become the local arm of the Middle East jihadi group called Ansar Khalifa Philippines, which has ties to another ISIS-aligned Indonesian jihadi organisation Mujahidin Indonesia Timur.

Just recently, several Islamic militant groups in the southern Philippines including Abu Sayyaf seemed to have joined forces to create a satellite of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, making Mindanao their base.

Politicians and terrorism experts have repeatedly warned that ISIS could gain a territorial foothold or at least establish a satellite presence in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s Prime MInister Lee Hsien Loong last year warned that ISIS could “establish a base somewhere in the region,” a geographical area under its physical control like in Syria or Iraq.

Southeast Asia has already emerged as a key recruitment center for ISIS, with more than 500 Indonesians and dozens of Malaysians joining the group and forming their own unit in Syria, the Katibah Nusantara Lil Daulah Islamiyah (Malay Archipelago Unit of the Islamic State), intelligence reports reveal One goal of this unit is to spread the reach of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and it is likely seeking to set up a base either in Indonesia or the Philippines or both in 2016, Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based terrorism expert, warns.

“An ISIS foothold will present far-reaching security implications for the stability and prosperity for a rising Asia,” he added. The main candidate for an ISIS branch, Gunaratna argued, is the Philippines.

“Shortly, ISIS will declare a satellite of the caliphate in the Sulu archipelago,” Gunaratna wrote in a recent analysis in The Straits Times.

To preempt this, Gunaratna urged the Philippine military to deploy in strength in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well as focus on “winning Muslim hearts and minds to reduce ISIS support.”

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