Philippines: Islamic State a Potential Unifying Factor for Militants
|Publication Date||10 March 2017|
|Citation / Document Symbol||Terrorism Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 5|
|Cite as||Jamestown Foundation, Philippines: Islamic State a Potential Unifying Factor for Militants, 10 March 2017, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 5, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58c692a54.html [accessed 27 April 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Philippines Islamist group Abu Sayyaf has killed a 70-year-old German man it held captive for three months, the latest in a series of beheadings that have highlighted fears the southern Philippines is fast becoming a regional center for Islamist militancy.
Abu Sayyaf posted a video of the killing of Jurgen Kantner on Telegram on February 27, beheading him on camera over an unmet $780,000 ransom demand (Inquirer, February 27). Kantner was taken captive in November last year after militants attacked his yacht off the coast of Sulu. His remains have now been recovered by the Philippines military, reportedly left in an area between Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) camps in Kagay and Sitio Talibang (Inquirer, March 5). Last year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages, John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.
The killings are reminiscent of the grisly on-camera beheadings carried out by Islamic State (IS). Nevertheless, the Abu Sayyaf faction behind the beheadings is not thought to be closely ideologically aligned with IS, despite its occasional use of the IS flag. Instead, it is the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf faction led by Isnilon Hapilon that is close to IS.
Hapilon swore allegiance to IS in 2014 and was named as a regional emir in an IS video last year. The declaration of a Southeast Asian caliphate has yet to follow. Hapilon's southern Philippines would seem the most likely choice for such a caliphate, despite apparent competition from Indonesia's Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid and the much-diminished Mujahidin Indonesia Timor, both of which have courted IS (Straits Times, February 15, 2016).
Hapilon's faction is apparently attempting to join up with other local jihadists to form a single group called Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik (Manila Standard, February 19). Hapilon himself appears capable of navigating the various Abu Sayyaf factions, as well as able to reach out to Malaysian and Indonesian jihadists (TV5, Janury 29). The death of a Moroccan fighter in a clash with the military in April last year suggested the Abu Sayyaf commander's affiliations could go even further afield. (Philippine Star, April 15, 2016). The man, named as Mohammad Khattab, had reportedly been training Hapilon's group on how to conduct suicide bombings.
Concerned that IS could set up in his country, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to stamp out Abu Sayyaf within months of taking office. That appears far off, but the military continues its campaign, reportedly wounding Hapilon in a clash on March 7 in Lanao del Sur (SunStar Manila, March 8).