The Islamic State (ISIS) is reportedly recruiting hundreds of Islamic insurgents for a new offensive in the Philippines, luring in fighters with the promise of riches.
Humam Abdul Najib, a senior ISIS affiliate also known as Abu Dar, managed to survive the Battle of Marawi, a bloody conflict that lasted five months, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and left around one thousand people dead. He reportedly escaped the destruction of the city with tens of millions of dollars in looted cash, jewels, and gold, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Hundreds of Muslim militants with ties to ISIS seized the southern city of Marawi in May 2017. Liberation came only after months of brutal urban combat. (RELATED: Filipino Troops Liberate Town Overrun By ISIS Militants After A Bloody Five-Month Battle)
“The Philippine security forces, aided by its government and the massive support of the Filipino people, have … defeated terrorism in the Philippines,” Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana said in October, adding, “In crushing thus far the most serious attempt to export violent extremism and radicalism in the Philippines and the region, we have contributed to preventing its spread in Asia.” (RELATED: Philippines Becomes Hotbed For ISIS Activity As Foreign Jihadis Join The Fight)
Authorities now suspect that the radical Islamic militants in the southern region are making preparations for a wave of fresh attacks in the Philippines. “Definitely they haven’t abandoned their intent to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, explained to Reuters.
“That’s the overall objective, but in the meantime while they are still trying to recover and build up again – fighters and weapons – our estimate is they are going to launch terrorist attacks,” Brawner added.
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During the fighting in Marawi, the jihadis blew open vaults at Landbank, the Philippine National Bank and the Al Amanah Islamic Bank. They also looted pawn shops and jewelry stores. “They were saying it was a gift from Allah. They would say ‘Allahu Akbar'” while they were robbing banks, a Christian construction worker captured by the militants revealed.
Islamic insurgents launched the first attack over the weekend since Marawi, wounding eight Filipino soldiers. Local observers suspect this may only be the beginning. “There is always the danger of these groups regaining strength enough to mount another Marawi-like operation,” a presidential spokesman told Reuters.
Najib, backed by an estimated $40 million in stolen goods, is believed to have recruited as many as 250 fighters from impoverished areas in the southern Philippines.
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