Despite taking heavy losses in a battle with the Philippines military, an ISIS-affiliate has reportedly raised its flag over municipal buildings in a southern city in the South-East Asian country. This led one expert to forecast Islamic State will announce a new province on one of Philippines largest islands.
Senior Analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre Otso Iho believes (Arabic link) it is only a matter of time before ISIS controls swathes of southern Philippines with its base on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island with a population of 20 million.
Several Islamist terror organizations have already pledged allegiance to ISIS, including Abu Sayyaf and Maute. Iho expects they will be ready to merge under the ISIS flag.
Right now there is little to prevent these groups from operating freely in Mindanao, he said.
When state forces do take on Islamists, the battles are often tough and bloody. This week the army claimed victory in a 5-day battle against ISIS fighters in a disused building in the south.
“They have been decimated. The capability to sustain and get back to the fight is no longer there,” military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla told Reuters.
The military says it killed dozens of Maute fighters. Maute, which also calls itself Islamic State in Lanao, is an offshoot of the better known and feared Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
While Arab and Western armies continue to win the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and ISIS counts its losses in Libya, the movement continues to garner support in other countries. These are not lone wolves but well-drilled fighting forces ready to take on national armies and launch terror attacks against civilians in order to advance their final goal – the declaration of a caliphate wherever possible and the sooner the better.