IS threat goes on – Monday, 28 August 2017
By all indications, the siege of Marawi City may soon end but it will not indicate an eradication of the Islamic State (IS) threat in the country and the greater Asia Pacific.
Marawi or the Philippines as an IS base is a necessary choice in the terror group’s ambition to spread throughout the region, the same way that the Americans, the Japanese and other countries interested in regional dominance consider the strategic position of the country.
Last August 24, state forces recaptured the city’s Grand Mosque, where previously as many as 100 civilian hostages including a priest were held by the pro-IS Maute group.
The military described the recapture of the Mosque as a significant development and an indication that the three-month war will end soon.
The IS, however, is intent on setting up a base in Southeast Asia as it is driven back in the Middle East as a result of the campaign launched by multinational forces against it.
The IS, using religion as propaganda has issued a call to wage a holy war or jihad against the “crusaders” which is a loose term to describe all those who do not subscribe to its philosophy of terror.
The call is evidently finding some measure of success as the military admitted that some of the militants appear to be foreigners, including Russians, Indonesians, Malaysians and many from the Middle East.
In a recently released video produced by the IS’ Al Hayat media center, a fighter identified as Abul-Yaman from Marawi, appeals to Muslims in East Asia, particularly those in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore to migrate to the city “to perform jihad.”
The video depicted dead soldiers and militant “martyrs” dying in battle that surprisingly was accompanied by an American-accented narrator who railed against the “subjugation” of Muslims in the Philippines.
The video started with scenes of young men engaged in heavy fighting amid the Marawi city ruins, brandishing AK-47s amid mortar fire and air strikes.
One newspaper described the video scenes as reminiscent of the destruction of Mosul, Iraq.
It also showed the destruction of a Catholic church, terrorists tearing down a cross, smashing statues of the Virgin Mary and ripping up posters of the Pope.
“We will make revenge…We will be in Rome, in’shallah,” a masked militant shouted.
The narrator then turned to Rody, for running to “his masters, the defenders of the cross, America, along with their regional guard dog Australia.”
The siege of Marawi City appears merely the start of a determined effort from the terror group to relocate to the region and its next target in the country is anybody’s guess.
A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants that showed the war is no longer a domestic but a regional problem.
“This is an evidence that the people under Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia now have a new ‘flag’ operating under IS, in this case, IS of the Philippines,” Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia said.
He said extremists in Indonesia who wish to join IS are now heading toward the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq, because of the huge losses of the terror group in its former strongholds.
“In terms of costs, distance and access, the Philippines is more feasible,” Habib added.
Many fighters from Southeast Asia who had traveled to fight with IS in Syria and Iraq are returning to their home countries with the Indonesian government reporting between 169 and 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home but whose whereabouts are unknown.
Major General Simandjuntak, a military commander in Bali, described these returning fighters as “in a sleep or inactive mode.”
Marawi City can be likened to the attack on Pearl Harbor that started five years of the Second World War.