Report: ISIS may declare caliphate in S-E Asia

Website raises possibility after Philippine militants' allegiance to terror group

PETALING JAYA • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has officially recognised pledges of allegiance from several militant groups based in the Philippines, although it has yet to declare an official caliphate province for the Philippines or the wider South- east Asian region.

One of the southern Philippines groups recognised is that of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, according to a report from the American-based The Long War Journal website.

The pledges were accepted in a video that was recently released by ISIS' Al Furat Media, a largely Russian-language media outlet, the report said. Other groups in the region, such as Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid and the Mujahidin Indonesia Timor, have also pledged their allegiance to ISIS.

The report said it was possible that the militant group would announce a caliphate in the region, especially after a suicide attack in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. The recognition of the pledges could pave the way for such an announcement.

The report said it was possible that the militant group would announce a caliphate in the region, especially after a suicide attack in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. The recognition of the pledges could pave the way for such an announcement.

The video features Hapilon and two other group leaders recording their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The other key leaders were Malaysian bombmaker Mohd Najib Husen, also known as Abu Anas al Muhajir, who was identified as the leader of Katibat Ansar al Sharia, and Abu Harith al Filipini, a delegate sent by the leader of Katibat Marakah al Ansar.

Included in the new video were brief combat footage and the last moments of Mohd Najib, who was killed in a firefight with the Philippine military in Basilan on Dec 15 last year. The video tries to portray him as a martyr. The 37-year-old electrical engineering graduate and father of five ran a bookshop at Universiti Malaya before becoming a bomb-maker.

In the video, three armed men are seen wearing vests or camouflage fatigues, and gunshots can be heard in the background. The scene is believed to show the shootout between the militants and the Philippine military in the jungles of southern Philippines.

In another scene, a wounded Mohd Najib is seen being carried by his companions. The camera zooms in on his face and a man is seen touching his face with a bloodied hand while saying a prayer. According to an intelligence source, Mohd Najib died a few hours later from a gunshot wound.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, PHILIPPINE INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Report: ISIS may declare caliphate in S-E Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe