The mayor of Cotabato City has said that at least 1,000 residents of Central Mindanao have aligned themselves with the Islamic State (IS).
Mayor Japal Gyani Jr said that IS sympathizers in the region were growing at an alarming rate, even in his own city.
A group known as the ‘Ansar Al Khalifah’, sympathizers of IS, has trained at least 30 youths responsible for attacks in France, Lebanon and Russia and have been part of what authorities say are the killing of more than 400 people in all.
The Philippines Department of National Defence has denied the claim made by Mayor Gyani – yet just last week the Philippines Army killed eight members of a group who they said were sympathizers to IS,. They later denied making the statement and dismissed the idea that the men had any involvement in the terrorist group.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has repeatedly stated that IS had no presence in the country – saying that bandit groups are merely claiming links to IS to bolster their notoriety.
Just this past year, the Philippines has for the first time classified Abu Sayyaf and several other guerrilla groups as terrorists. Yet this week the very government who named them as such, is now denying their presence in the country.
A recent influx of IS flags has been observed from the regions of Sulu, Zamboanga and several areas around central Mindanao, cementing the idea that IS is here and ready to wage what many fear will be an all-out assault ono the Philippines.
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