Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Philippine Army Fights Islamic Extremists

The Philippine military says troops backed by aircraft have captured a jungle camp belonging to an extremist band allied with the Islamic State group and killed several militants in the country' south. Regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said an army general raised the Philippine flag Monday 24 April 2017 in the camp of the Maute armed group near Piagapo town in Lanao del Sur province a few hours after troops occupied the rebel base.

Herrera said at least three bodies of militants were recovered by troops in the camp, which had tents, bunkers and trenches, although intelligence indicated as many as 36 militants were killed in three days of intense fighting. Three soldiers were wounded. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp.

Abu Sayyaf, is the most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines. Its name means "bearer of the sword" and it is notorious for kidnapping for ransom, and for attacks on civilians and the army. While Abu Sayyaf was part of the Moro National Liberation Front, but left in 1991 because Abu Sayyaf became radicalized with Islamist doctrine as it's founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani - an Islamic preacher, fought in the Soviet-Afghan war where became acquainted with al-Qai'da founder Osama Bin Laden and been inspired by him. Al-Qai'da provided Abu Sayyaf with funding and training when it was initially set up.

While Abu Sayyaf also split into factions in 2006 or 2007, factions remain not fully opposed to each other. The group is though to have an estimated 400 members and, since 2014, several of its factions have declared their allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group. There has been a recent phenomenon around the waters surrounding the Philippines with Islamic extremist pirates replicating the Somalian pirate operational routine disrupting shipping and conducting kidnappings for ransom.

Abu Sayyaf has long had ties to prominent Indonesian Islamic militant groups like Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Several JI members involved in the Bali bombings found shelter with Abu Sayyaf after fleeing Indonesia. There is also evidence it has links to jihadist groups in the Middle East. Recently the body of a Moroccan bomb expert, Mohammad Khattab, was discovered following a battle between the group and the Philippine army.

In 2002, fighting Abu Sayyaf became a mission of the American military's Operation Enduring Freedom and part of the Global War on Terrorism. Several hundred United States soldiers are also stationed in the area to mainly train local forces in counter terror and counter guerrilla operations, but, as a status of forces agreement and under Philippine law, they are not allowed to engage in direct combat.

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