Philippines: MILF seeks to combat 'ISIL recruitment'

One-time Muslim rebel group’s official says verifying whether organized outfit is behind recruitment activities by those claiming ISIL links

Philippines: MILF seeks to combat 'ISIL recruitment'

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Philippines’ one-time largest Muslim rebel group has set up a task force following reported recruitment activities in south Mindanao island by groups claiming affiliation with ISIL.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) chief negotiator said Wednesday that the move was in response to reports that ISIL-inspired individuals had been convincing residents to join and support their cause in the troubled region where the MILF is engaged in an ongoing peace process with the government.

Mohagher Iqbal also confirmed the authenticity of a video circulating online of alleged recruitment efforts, but added that the MILF was verifying whether those involved were an organized outfit.

“The recruitment activities as well the video of their training that came out were authentic,” the Philippine Inquirer quoted him as saying. “But whether or not there is already a formal organization of the IS [ISIL] in Mindanao, that is still a subject for validation.”

According to Iqbal, the task force is “composed of Muslim preachers in Mindanao” who seek to counter the “distortion” of Islamic teachings and the Qur’an by extremists.

He associated the appeal of extremist ideologies to some residents – among them professionals – with disappointment with the peace process, under which the MILF and government are still negotiating after signing a 2014 deal to end the region’s decades-old conflict.

“They are frustrated. They thought their leaders in the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front have abandoned their struggle,” he said, referring to the rebel group from which the MILF broke away in the late 1970s due to political differences.

“The failure in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is also a source of frustration,” he added, drawing attention to delays in passing the legislation that would seal the 2014 peace agreement.

He underlined that recruitment activities were particularly prevalent in the Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur areas.

The mayor of Cotabato City, Japal Guiani Jr., had earlier confirmed that such efforts by the ISIL-inspired Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines had won over 30 people in his jurisdiction.

Last month, the spokesperson for Western Mindanao Command referred to videos and photos circulating online regarding ISIL recruitment and a training camp as merely propaganda by the local rebels.

The presidential palace had earlier denied that ISIL had set up camp in the Philippines’ jungles, as well as any presence of the group in the archipelago.

"Some of these ISIS-linked personalities, who are really few in number, have also sought refuge in the base areas of these local terrorist groups," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, has a concentration of indigenous Muslims in Mindanao.

Last year, two militant groups in the south -- the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf -- pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears that the group could make inroads in the region.

Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2016, 15:38
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