WHILE the Maute Group might have been defeated in Marawi City, a report has claimed that there are 23 pro-Islamic State groups operating in the southern Philippines.
Unnamed intelligence sources told regional news portal Benar News this week that extremist organisations were regrouping with some allied “under the black flag of IS” in order to avenge their defeat by the Philippine Army in Marawi – a Muslim-majority city in the southern province of Mindanao.
Last year, Islamic State-inspired militants laid waste to Marawi during a battle with Philippine security forces that lasted five months and displaced more than 350,000 people. It will cost at least an estimated $1.1 billion to rebuild the city.
“They are now aggressively reorganising, recruiting and retraining to re-establish their desire to have a foothold in Southeast Asian region,” an intelligence source told Benar News, referring to groups including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf.
A spokesman for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – which signed a peace deal with the Philippines’ central government in 2014 – said that once it was granted autonomy in Mindanao as of May, it could help to “eliminate” the groups that support IS.
Zachary Abuza, a Professor in Southeast Asian Politics and Security at the National War College in Washington DC responded on Twitter that: “many are vanity projects, defunct cells, or simply so geographically isolated.”
“Only a few count, and with exception of Marawi siege, they really don’t work together,” he added.
The Marawi siege saw President Rodrigo Duterte declare martial law across the entire Mindanao, which is set to last until the end of 2018.