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New President is hoped to thwart emergence of ISIS in Phillipines

Duterte fights ordinary and organized crime conventionally and unconventionally and he is likely to counter terrorism in a similar manner.

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Rise of a new era in Philippines, Wikimedia commons

There is great hope among Muslim communities in the Philippines that President-elect Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte will restore peace and stability in the south.

Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao, has deep ties to the insurgency-stricken region.

If there is anybody who wishes that this bloody problem would end soon, it is I because I am both Moro and Christian,” Duterte remarked during the lead-up to his presidential campaign.

As mayor he has maintained peace in Davao City but, as president, he will face a greater challenge in the south, especially with the emergence of groups supporting the Islamic State (IS).

Duterte wants to have peace in Mindanao and will reach out to Muslim groups and the Communist Party of the Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rallied behind his candidacy, and he also reached out to the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He also has opened communications with the Communist Party of the Philippines. Duterte, in fact, called the party’s founding leader, Jose Maria Sison, before the election.

IS support groups mount attacks

In the immediate run-up to the presidential election on May 9, IS Philippines, led by Isnilon Hapilon (a former deputy of the Abu Sayyaf Group), attacked a Philippine Army outpost in Maluso (a town in southern Basilan province).

In a communique distributed on Telegram and Twitter on Tuesday, the group reported that a group of fighters had attacked an army position in Tobijan village, engaging in a clash with the soldiers and killing one and wounding another.

This is the second official claim of an attack by the IS in the Philippines, according to SITE Intelligence Group. On April 13, IS’s branch in the Philippines claimed it had killed nearly 100 Philippine troops in strikes over a period of a few days, but the group exaggerated its successes.

IS Central claimed the attack in Tobijan and referred to the group mounting the attack as “Islamic State Philippines.” This is further evidence that IS has established a branch in the Philippines, a threat underestimated by the government of the Philippines.

Islamic State Lanao, another group that supports Islamic State but is not accepted by IS Central, meanwhile claimed responsibility for bombing a transmission tower in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, on May 4.

Related article: Islamic State spreads its wing in South East Asia

Duterte’s thinking

More than any other leader Duterte understands the threat posed by IS. Until now, the government in Manila and Filipino analysts have characterized the IS link to Filipino groups as wishful thinking and one sided.

Without underestimating the threat, Duterte is likely to work with MILF and MNLF to fight both Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), IS Philippines and IS Lanao. A practical man, Duterte will work with the MILF and MNLF to restore peace and stability.

He is tough. Duterte fights ordinary and organized crime conventionally and unconventionally, and he is likely to do this with terrorism, too.

With time Duterte will realize that MILF and MNLF are serious about finding a solution within the united Philippines while ASG and IS support groups in the Philippines are not.

The ASG and IS will not negotiate genuinely. They will have to be contained, isolated and eliminated.

And Duterte is likely to take them on. He will launch an uncompromising military campaign after asking them to join the peace process.

MNLF and ASG have links: at least a few factions of ASG are likely to embrace his offer. A dealmaker, Duterte will reach out to them as well.

He will likely be an ideal president although the IS group in Mindanao will likely become one his burdens. I think he will employ the full force of the law to quell the threat of IS,” a former ASG member told me.

Hopes for peace

While Duterte’s grandmother was a full-blooded Maranao, his eldest son Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte married a Tausug.

IS has already built a support group in the Lanao area, where Maranaos live, and in Basilan, where Tausugs live. Proud of his Muslim lineage, Duterte generated support from Muslim leaders.

Abulajid Estino, a former assemblyman from the Mindanao region, said: “it was the first time that a leader with genuine Bangsamoro blood had the potential to become president of the Philippines”.

Duterte, the man from Mindanao who will be sworn in as president on June 30, is in a unique position to manage the violence and root out terrorism in the southern Philippines.

The threat will decline if Duterte’s government can either pass the basic law to create an autonomous region or grant federalism. Passing the basic law to create the autonomous region will reduce the reservoir of Muslim unhappiness that militants are harnessing.

A former member of the ASG said to me: “This is perhaps the reason why I also voted for him last Monday … hoping that he can make not only Mindanao but the entire country peaceful.

Man with a vision

The Moro conflict is one of the world’s longest conflicts. Such conflicts are intractable. Today, with IS making inroads to the Philippines, the problem is even more complex. Political will remains at the heart of making a difference.

In the lead-up to the election in the Philippines, local threat groups that support IS stepped up their operations.

They are likely to test Duterte’s patience. Duterte should not overreact. However, he should act too.

Otherwise, the threat will remain in the Philippines and may grow with implications for the rest of Southeast Asia. Duterte has the vision and mission to make a difference. (Benarnews)

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)

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Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia : Report

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia

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An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia
An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA
  • A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants
  • In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US
  • Ridwan Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly

Philippines, August 30, 2017: Government security forces in the Philippines city of Marawi have been fighting for the past three months to rout militants suspected of ties to the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in May declared the country’s restive south under the martial rule for 60 days – which, in July, was extended through the end of the year – after an attempt by security forces to capture an Islamic State (IS) -linked militant leader failed. That set off clashes that left the city under siege.

A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants who are fighting against the Philippines military in the Marawi region.

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia, which is home to a number of separatist and militant groups.

“This is an evidence that the people under Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia now have a new ‘flag’ operating under ISIS, in this case, ISIS of the Philippines,” said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia.

“Something serious is brewing and the government needs to anticipate what could happen next,” he said. “We‘re worried that this new identity.”

Extremist militant group

Jammah Islamiyah is an extremist militant group in Southeast Asia with links to al-Qaida and has carried out numerous bomb attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, including the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people.

Islamic State (IS) has already shown signs of expanding in the region through local affiliates and sympathizers.

The group has been recruiting in Indonesia, with more than 380 people joining the terror group by January, according to the country’s counterterrorism agency. Most of those recruits have traveled to Syria and Iraq.

Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University who studies terrorism in Indonesia, said the IS terror threat in the country has been on the rise since mid-2014.

Islamic State (IS) has reportedly tapped a leader in the Abu Sayyaf group – an extremist militant group in the region known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists – as its Southeast Asia chief.

Indonesian authorities also confirmed that IS posed a threat to their country.

The terror group claimed responsibility for a coordinated bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including the four attackers.

In March, U.S. Treasury authorities added Bahrun Naim, a prominent Indonesian militant, to the global terrorist list, saying he provided financial and operational support for IS in Indonesia and funneled money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.

Also Read: UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. for alleged terrorist acts against American citizens – as the leader of a loosely affiliated association of small groups that have sprouted in the past three to four years around the central and southern Philippines.

Hapilon swore allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a July 2014 video, according to the U.S. State Department.

Philippines as a new destination

Some analysts say that many extremists in Indonesia who wish to join IS are now heading to the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq because conditions in the terror group’s former strongholds have degraded due to the ongoing multi front military campaign against the group in the region.

“In terms of costs, distance, and access, the Philippines is more feasible,” Ridwan Habib of the University of Indonesia said. “Therefore, many jihadists from Indonesia chose to go to Marawi instead of going to Syria.”

Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly.

The analyst claimed that Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant in the Philippines who has studied in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been attempting to help establish an IS presence in the Southeast Asia region.

Ahmad was reported to have been killed in the Marawi battle in June, but Khalild Abu Bakar, a Malaysian police chief, told media that he believes Ahmad is still alive.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, chief of staff of the Philippines armed forces, said Ahmad channeled more than $600,000 from the IS group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi, according to The Associated Press.

Also Read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

Returning IS fighters dilemma

Many fighters from Southeast Asia who had traveled to fight with IS in Syria and Iraq are returning to their home countries as the terror group is losing ground in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s government reported last year that between 169 and 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home.

“Though I have said there are 50 (IS affiliates) in Bali, 25 in NTT (East Nusa Tenggara) and 600 in NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat), their whereabouts are known to us and under control,” Major General Simandjuntak, a military commander in Bali, told reporters last week.

“They are in a sleep or inactive mode,” he added.

Abdul Haris Masyhari, chairman of the committee on defense and foreign relations in Indonesia’s parliament, worried that returning IS fighters could set up cells in their hometowns.

“In reference to Bali, I hope law enforcement would take action and preventive measures to thwart terror plots,” Masyhari said.

Opposition to Islamic State is growing in Indonesia amongst the public.

In May, a survey of 1,350 adults suggested nearly 90 percent of the participants viewed IS as a serious threat to their country. Meanwhile, several surveys conducted in the country indicate an increase in extremist ideology among the youth, who are idolizing radical figures. (VOA)

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Police Arrests 200, Guns down 67 in Philippines : President Rodrigo Duterte’s Ruthless War on Drugs and Crime

War on drugs and crime escalates in Philippines taking the toll for one of the bloodiest weeks so far to 80

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Drug war in Philippines
Police officers stand behind a police line after a man was killed during a police anti-drug operation in Caloocan city, Metro Manila, Philippines, Aug. 17, 2017. VOA

Police killed at least 13 people in Manila on the third night of an escalation in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs and crime, taking the toll for one of the bloodiest weeks so far to 80, Reuters witnesses and media reported Friday.

Earlier this week, 67 people were gunned down and more than 200 arrested in Manila and provinces adjoining the Philippines capital, in what police described as a “One-Time, Big-Time” push to curb drugs and street crimes.

The term has been used by Philippines police to describe a coordinated anti-crime drive in crime-prone districts, usually slums or low-income neighborhoods, often with additional police deployed.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 19th Founding Anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug, 16, 2017.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 19th Founding Anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug, 16, 2017. VOA

Spike in killings

The spike in killings drew condemnation from Vice President Leni Robredo, who belongs to a party opposed to Duterte.

Branding it “something to be outraged about,” she has been a constant critic of the crackdown that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm since Duterte took office more than a year ago.

A team of Reuters journalists went to five communities in Manila Thursday night, where four men died in shootouts with undercover police in drug “buy-bust” or sting operations.

Police prevented the journalists from getting near the scene in the northwestern neighborhood of Caloocan, but they saw three body bags being taken from a maze of narrow alleys. Elsewhere in Caloocan, they saw the corpse of a man slumped on an iron fence at the back of a mini-bus terminal.

ALSO READ: Indonesia’s War on Drugs Follows Philippines’ Infamous Crusade to Curb Drug Use 

Another man was killed near the Manila post office building, four died in hospitals in the northern area of Malabon and another died on the spot near a former garbage dump in the sprawling Quezon City district.

Three others were killed elsewhere Thursday night, according to a radio report, including a man who was shot by masked men on a motorcycle in the eastern area of Marikina City.

Call for protest

“The killing spree must stop even as we also demand a stop to the proliferation of illegal drugs,” Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the left-wing Bayan (Nation) movement, said. “A long-term and thorough solution is necessary. A fascist solution is doomed to fail.”

Reyes urged Filipinos to join a protest organized by a group of artists in Quezon City, saying in a flyer on social media: “Let us condemn the recent spike in the killings under the Duterte regime.”

Police say there has been no instruction from higher authorities to step up their anti-drug operations and they are only doing their job.

“The president did not instruct me to kill and kill,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa said Thursday. “I also don’t have any instructions to my men to kill and kill. But the instruction coming from the president is very clear that our war on drugs is unrelenting. Those who were killed fought back.”

Duterte indicated this week that the escalation had his blessing, saying it was good that 32 criminals had been killed in a province north of Manila and adding: “Let’s kill another 32every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country.”

On Thursday, he said he would not just pardon police officers who killed drug offenders during the anti-narcotics campaign, but also promote them.

Critics maintain that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are executing suspects and say it is likely they have a hand in thousands of unsolved murders of drug users by mysterious vigilantes. The PNP and government reject that.

Although the violence has been criticized by much of the international community, Filipinos largely support the campaign and domestic opposition to it has been muted. (VOA)