BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon has pledged support to the Middle East radical terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in video posted on YouTube on July 23.
The post came as the ISIS ideology reportedly spread fast in the Philippines and Indonesia, with the terror group conducting recruitment through social media.
Apparently the recruitment is carried out by foreign militants with links to ISIS.
On July 25, Australian Islamic preacher Robert Cerantonio aka Musa was arrested in Lapu-lapu City in central Philippines for rallying support for ISIS on social media.
Cerantonio had been hiding in the Philippines for half-a-year, preaching radical Islam and recruiting Filipino militants, authorities said.
He has been literally calling for jihad. He has been recruiting Filipino Muslims to fight in Iraq and Syria, said the Philippine police.
Cerantonio’s arrest established a first known link between Islamist militants in the Philippines and ISIS, said the authorities.
Cerantonio is considered by terrorism experts as one of the world’s most influential “inspirations” for militants in Syria and Iraq, according to Australian media. Police said Cerantonio had given lectures in support of ISIS in Basilan and Sulu.
Authorities did not say if Cerantonio recruited Hapilon.
Hapilon carries a US$5 million reward on his head put up by the United States. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes Hapilon as the second in command of the Abu Sayyaf.
In the 6-minute video clip in YouTube, a black-gowned Hapilon is seen with men with covered faces.
Speaking in a combination of Yakan, his native dialect, and Arabic, Hapilon and his men swear allegiance to ISIS and its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We pledge support to Caliph Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Ibrahim Awwad Al-Qurashi Al-Husseini for loyalty and obedience in adversity and comfort,” says Hapilon, reading from a sheet of paper and linking arms with apparently members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Also in July, the first known instance of Filipino support on social media for ISIS was posted on YouTube, showing members or former members of the Abu Sayyaf in prison, swearing allegiance to ISIS.
Another video on the same month was posted on Facebook—about a dozen masked men claiming to be members of Abu Sayyaf also pledging support to ISIS in Arabic.