Australia is preparing for the threat of Islamic State founding a caliphate in the southern Philippines as the terror group loses ground in the Middle East.
In an interview with Sky News today (Sunday, March 26) on Sunday, Julie Bishop described the rise of extremism in the Southeast Asian nation as one of the biggest concerns to come out of her recent meeting with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
Bishop said authorities are concerned about an estimated 600 foreign fighters from Southeast Asia surviving the campaign in Iraq and Syria and returning home to take up arms with Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups.
“There is concern that ISIS may well seek to declare a caliphate, an Islamic caliphate in the southern Philippines,” the minister told Sky News on Sunday.
“We don’t want to see it emerge elsewhere in the world, otherwise, we’ll be back in a few years’ time talking about how to defeat a caliphate in the southern Philippines.”
As we have previously reported, the leader of Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon has been declared ‘emir’, or leader, of Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
“This brings the threat right to our doorstep,” the minister added.
“Once they lose a landbase (in Syria and Iraq)…they will leave, and they have this dream of a caliphate, a kingdom that would comprise Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.”
She also said that President Duterte had assured her of his full cooperation on the issue.
“We’ve been ensuring that our security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies have the resources they need in cooperation with other countries to stamp this terror threat out of our region,” she said.
Late in 2015, IS released its first propaganda video of a terror training camp in the Philippines.
The footage showed the “soldiers of the Caliphate in the Philippines” working on their fitness and agility by completing a series of assault course drills.