BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has expressed extreme worry Davao Muslims said to have been recruited by a Middle East terror group could return to Davao to sow violence after their stint in Syria and Iraq.
Duterte said he has received information the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lured young Dabawenyo Muslims to train and join to fight its war to establish a separate caliphate (Muslim state) in the two Middle East countries.
I hope that when they return, they would not engage in violence, said Duterte.
The ISIS, founded by a former operative in Syria of the international terrorist group al-Qaeda is considered as the most dangerous militant group in the world today.
ISIS, renamed as Islamic State or IS, which now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, is known to behead its victims in public. Its latest victim is freelance American journalist James Foley, whose execution was uploaded by the militants on YouTube.
BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), continues to fight the government despite a peace agreement between Manila and the MILF. The Abu Sayyaf, also known to beheads its kidnapping victims, is the Philippine cell of the Jemaah Islamiyah, the Indonesia-based bureau of the al-Qaeda.
I hope that when they return, they would not do “something bad for us,” said Duterte in the August 24 edition of his television program Gikan sa Masa para sa Masa on ABS/CBN Davao.
I hope they went there for religious conviction and not for hatred, he said.
Duterte said he could not do something to prevent the recruits from going abroad, hinting they could have joined the ISIS for religious reasons.
The Muslim religion is good. I respect their religious beliefsI hope they went there on religious principles, he said.
The ISIS, founded by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has parlayed a civil strife (Shiite vs. Sunni) in Syria into forming a new terror group that wants to establish a caliphate in Sunni-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.
In the Sunday program, Duterte said he was informed two months ago that some Dabawenyos have been recruited to fight a religious war in ISIS-controlled areas in Libya or Iraq.
The recruitment by ISIS was first revealed by former President Fidel Ramos, who said that more than 100 Filpinos are in the Middle East fighting side-by-side with ISIS jihadists.
Duterte said he felt sad that some Dabawenyo Muslims have been lured to join the group.
Duterte also expressed alarm that the
BIFF has pledged allegiance to the ISIS.
On television last week, Ramos said the ISIS has the support of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the BIFF.
Ramos said he had received a report that at least 100 young Filipino Muslims have already infiltrated Iraq to undergo training.
When they return they could be jihadists or militants to sow terror in the country, Ramos said.
Clueless on ISIS recruitment
Government intelligence units are verifying reports that Filipino Muslims have slipped out of Mindanao to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East.
This after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte revealed that some Muslim youths from Davao have been recruited by the jihadist group.
Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastincom), said an investigation is now ongoing to determine the veracity of the report.
Right now, we (and police) have our intelligence units working on it, Caber said.
The military official, however, sought to assure the public that the EastMinCom can secure its jurisdiction.
Duterte revealed that some Davao Muslim youths were recruited by ISIS which now controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) which has jurisdiction over Davao City, said he will check on the mayor’s revelation.
“I will check on it, I will validate and take a careful look if there is basis so we can do some appropriate action. We cannot dismiss that right away…because Mayor Duterte has his own sources, he said.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, meanwhile, expressed fears that the failure of the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF to strike a peace agreement could lead to propagation of ISIS virus in Mindanao.
The MILF claimed that through the years, it has been instrumental in preventing the birth of a strong radical group in southern Philippines.