ISIS praises militant attacks in Philippines, Iran

A Filipino soldier walks on a street as fighting between Islamist militants and government forces continues in Marawi on June 2, 2017.
A Filipino soldier walks on a street as fighting between Islamist militants and government forces continues in Marawi on June 2, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

BEIRUT (AFP) - A spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group praised militant attacks in the Philippines and Iran, in an audio recording broadcast on Tuesday (June 13).

The recording broadcast by militant accounts on social networks was part of a general appeal to extremists around the world to continue their attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Children of the caliphate in eastern Asia, we congratulate you for taking Marawi," ISIS spokesman Aboulhassan al-Mouhajer said, referring to the Philippine city seized by militants last month.

Thousands of Philippine troops are battling hundreds of insurgents who overran the southern city on May 23, flying black ISIS flags and using up to 2,000 civilians as human shields.

Fierce fighting in the city has left a total of 58 soldiers and police and more than 20 civilians dead, according to the military which estimates that almost 200 militants have been killed.

The ISIS spokesman also congratulated the perpetrators of last week's attacks in Iran.

Seventeen people were killed and dozens wounded when armed men and suicide bombers attacked Teheran's parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on June 7, the first strikes claimed by the group in Iran. The five attackers were killed.

Mouhajer urged "caliphate soldiers" to continue their actions during Ramadan in Iraq and Syria. He also called for attacks in Europe, America, Australia, Russia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.

Meanwhile, the United States on Monday slapped financial sanctions on two suspected ISIS militants accused of manufacturing chemical weapons, the Treasury Department announced.

It was the first time the Treasury Department had imposed sanctions on an ISIS member accused of involvement in chemical weapons, the department said.

The sanctioned men included senior ISIS leader Attallah Salman Abd Kafi al-Jaburi, who is in charge of bomb-making facilities in the Iraqi province of Kirkuk.

The State Department also listed Iraqi ISIS leader Marwan Ibrahim Hussayn Tah al-Azawi, who also is connected to the manufacture of chemical weapons, as a “specially designated global terrorist.”

The move effectively freezes both men out of much of the global financial system, prohibiting banks and individuals from participating in any transactions with them, and freezing any of their assets subject to US jurisdiction.

The department condemned the use of chemical weapons “and will leverage all available tools to target those complicit in their development, proliferation, or use,” John Smith, head of Treasury’s sanctions office, said.

In November, IHS Conflict Monitor, a London based intelligence analysis service, accused ISIS of having used chemical weapons at least 52 times since the militant organisation swept to power in 2014.

As of mid-2016,  al-Jaburi was in charge of manufacturing rockets, car bombs and roadside bombs, the Treasury said. He was ordered in January of last year to produce chemical weapons for use in attacks on Iraqi Kurdish fighters.

Separately, the State Department also sanctioned the Indonesian militant organisation Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia. The group is accused of involvement in attacks in that country including the May 2012 attack on a book launch by the Canadian author Irshad Manji.