The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in a recently released propaganda video, is urging would-be terrorists to travel to the Philippines to engage in jihad instead of Iraq and Syria, home to the group’s dwindling caliphate.
NBC News reports:
A video released by ISIS asks would-be fighters to go to the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq, the latest sign that the terror group is shifting its recruiting tactics as it loses ground to coalition forces in the Middle East.
The seven-minute, English-language video, released by the official ISIS media operation late last month, includes messages from several fighters in the Southern Philippines, and scenes from battles with government troops near the city of Marawi, including the pillaging of a Catholic church.
Specifically, ISIS is reportedly calling on prospective jihadists in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, and Singapore to migrate and join fighters loyal to the terrorist group in the Philippines.
“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah [migration]. Come forth to … Marawi,” declares one of the ISIS jihadists, identified as Abul-Yamaan, in the footage.
Marawi refers to the only official Islamic city in Roman Catholic-majority Philippines.
Local ISIS affiliates the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf have established a foothold in Marawi.
The Philippine’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who have reportedly agreed to ally themselves with the Maute group, is another ISIS-aligned jihadist group operating on the island of Mindanao, home to Marawi.
“ISIS wants to be seen as global, and the Philippines provides them with an opportunity,” an unnamed U.S. official told NBC News.
In late August, the Philippine military claimed that it was organizing a final siege to remove all ISIS terrorists from Marawi.
However, clashes continue as Filipino soldiers try to evict the terrorists from the city.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has acknowledged that the American intelligence community is keenly aware of the ISIS threat emanating from the Philippines, noting that the terrorist group has attracted foreign fighters to the Asian country.
“We already see elements of ISIS in the Philippines, as you’re aware, gaining a foothold,” Tillerson told reporters on August 1. “Some of these fighters have gone to the Philippines from Syria and Iraq. We are in conversations with the Philippine government, with Indonesia, with Malaysia, with Singapore, with Australia, as partners to recognize this threat, try to get ahead of this threat.”
Secretary Tillerson did not provide any figures.
“A senior U.S. counterterrorism official noted that Philippine Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said in June that among the dead in the continuing battle for Marawi were Saudis, Pakistanis, Malaysians, and Indonesians,” reports NBC News. “The official said there’s no reason to doubt Ano’s assessment.”
In ISIS’s shrinking caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group has suffered significant losses at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition and local forces.
As of early August, the U.S.-led coalition and its allies, including local Kurdish fighters, had re-conquered 27,000 square miles (about 78 percent) of the 35,000 square miles ISIS was believed to hold at its peak in Iraq and Syria in early 2015.
That means that at the time ISIS only controlled about 20 percent (8,000 square miles) of its once thriving caliphate.
Of the 27,000 square miles retaken from ISIS, “78 percent” lies in Iraq and 58 percent in Syria, according to the Washington Post (WaPo).
Since the beginning of August, ISIS loses only intensified.
The U.S.-led coalition and local forces have nearly annihilated the jihadist group’s so-called caliphate.
In Syria alone, the Iran and Russian-backed troops loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad and U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance, now control more than 70 percent of the country, reveals the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the fight in the country.
The monitor group dismissed claims by Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah and Russia that Assad now controls nearly the entire country, noting that the regime only holds 48 percent of Syria.
Al-Qaeda has capitalized on the losses sustained by its rival ISIS to reach a level of strength in Syria not seen in any other country and set the conditions there to establish an Islamic emirate of its own.
It appears that al-Qaeda now controls more territory in Syria than its rival ISIS, courtesy of the international focus to annihilate the Islamic State.