Terror groups continue recruitment in southern Philippines, says army general


A local government worker in front of an establishment marked with graffiti inside the war-torn Marawi city, Philippines, on Oct 20, 2017.
A local government worker in front of an establishment marked with graffiti inside the war-torn Marawi city, Philippines, on Oct 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Terror groups have not stopped their recruitment activities in the Philippines and have gone beyond the southern province of Lanao del Sur to woo young recruits, according to the Army's commanding general.

Lieutenant General Rolando Joselito Bautista said the military has received reports that the groups were trying to recruit in the nearby provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Sultan Kudarat, reported The Manila Times on Monday (March 5).

"They continue to recruit in the areas of Basilan, Sulu and at Palimbang (in Sultan Kudarat)," said Bautista, who was the commander of Joint Task Force Marawi set up after the Maute Group attacked the city last year.

"(The recruitments) are expected. In fact, after the Marawi liberation, the common actions of the supporters inside the area and several others we have neutralised have been recruiting and we have received reports that the recruitment is not limited within Lanao del Sur," he told reporters on Friday.

He said different groups joined forces under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf militant seen as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group's leader in southeast Asia, in support of one goal - to form a caliphate in the city of Marawi.

Hapilon was killed by military forces in Marawi in October last year (2017), along with Maute brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah.

"We all know that Isnilon was an Abu Sayyaf but he managed to unite different local terrorist groups to establish a caliphate within Marawi and we all know that they had support coming from different leaderships (of ISIS) particularly from Indonesia and Malaysia," Bautista was quoted as saying by The Manila Times.

Bautista also revealed that military officials are validating reports that several terrorists have sneaked into the country through the southern backdoor or the provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. He did not discount the possibility that some terrorists may already be in Metro Manila.