SECURITY officials are closely monitoring a new umbrella organization of Mindanao-based terrorist groups, police and military sources told the Manila Standard Monday.
Called Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik, the group replaces Ansar Khilafa Philippines, whose leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed on Jan. 5.
“We’ve been monitoring the formation of this new group for several months already through continuous intelligence gathering and comparing our assessments with the assessments of some independent experts on terrorism,” a military general who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Intelligence reports said bombers from the Abu Sayyaf group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Maute group, AKP, and even “lost command” groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were pulling together to launch bomb attacks.
“Their ultimate objective is to be recognized by the daesh [Islamic State] as a member or affiliate organization under the name DIWM here in the Philippines,” another security officer from the police said.
He said the bomb attacks in Davao City, Hilongos in Leyte, Midsayap in North Cotabato, and the foiled Manila bombing are interconnected.
“All those arrested perpetrators from all these incidents spoke of the formation of he DIWM. In fact, they came from different groups such as the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, AKP, and have backgrounds from the BIFF and MILF,” he said.
An Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, started the group in Basilan in February 2016, with a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State.
On Monday, the Philippine National Police said it is closely monitoring five to 10 foreigners who are allegedly conducting training in terrorist camps in Mindanao.
At a press conference Monday, PNP chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa said there might be more foreign nationals but said they would be difficult to identify as such if they were Malays.
Also on Monday, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduaro Año said the military was using a new approach to combatting terrorists by neutralizing their top leaders.
Ano would not offer any specifics, but said the new approach would “finish this problem once and for all.”
Last week, a Sudanese national, Abu Naila, believed to be bound for Syria to fight for the Islamic State together and his wife Kadija were killed in a shootout with security forces on the outskirts of Sarangani province.
His death followed the killing of Maguid at a beach resort in Sarangani province.
At present, Año said they had been 51 battalions deployed to different areas of Mindanao, the biggest military contingent that has been amassed on the island.
“Not in our history has there been this massive deployment of our troops, but we are going to make sure that our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf will not be prolonged and we wanted this to finish it,” Año said.
Año said they have intensified its intelligence operations while drawing on community support to provide information on terrorists in their locality.
“We are encouraging the community to help us by reporting suspicious-looking… people in their locality,” Año said. With Francisco Tuyay, PNA