U.S. gov't adds Maute group, ISIS-PH to list of foreign terrorists

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Maute group leader Omar Maute (left) and Isnilon Hapilon, the "emir" of ISIS in the Philippines, were killed in Marawi on October 16. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28) — The U.S. Department of State has added seven organizations, including local terror group Maute, to its list of foreign terrorists and terrorist organizations due to their connection to the Islamic State (ISIS).

Seven groups were classified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists:

  • ISIS-West Africa
  • ISIS-Philippines
  • ISIS-Bangladesh
  • ISIS-Somalia
  • Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia
  • ISIS-Egypt
  • Maute Group

Two individuals were also added to the foreign terrorist list: ISIS-Somalia deputy leader Mahad Moalim and ISIS-West Africa leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

In June 2016, ISIS released a video of militants in the Philippines pledging allegiance to the terror group, and recruiting Muslims to join the terrorist group under now-deceased Isnilon Hapilon. The report said Hapilon was recognized by ISIS as the "emir" or leader of ISIS-Philippines.

"These designations target key ISIS-affiliated groups and leaders outside its fallen caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Today's actions are a critical step in degrading ISIS's global network and denying its affiliates the resources they need to plan and carry out terrorist attacks," U.S. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said in a statement.

The designation prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions, or giving assistance to terrorist groups and individuals.

Malacañang on Wednesday said the U.S. decision to declare both ISIS-Philippines and the Maute group as global terrorists is a positive development in the war against terrorism.

"This reaffirms our long-held belief that the Maute group is composed of local terrorists aided by foreign extremists," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The Maute group, also known as Dawlah-Islamiyah, attempted a takeover of the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur last May. The siege prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and resulted into a five-month long war with government forces.

The war resulted in ₱11.52 billion worth of damage, and claimed the lives of 165 government troops and 47 civilians. Hapilon and Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar, were also killed in the skirmishes.

In October 2016, then Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen.Eduardo Año said that ISIS funded the Maute group with at least $1.5 million for the Marawi takeover.

Meanwhile, the  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the U.S. declaration helps the Philippines go after terrorists.

"Specific advantage on such declaration/list is the checking of money trail, financial sources, logistics lines and conduits of terror groups in foreign countries that may have connections with local violent extremists," AFP Spokesperson BGen. Bienvenido Datuin said in a statement.

The Department of National Defense said the inclusion of the Maute Group and ISIS Philippines on the U.S. list affirms Philippines' knowledge about the terror groups.

"As such, they will be denied access to the U.S. financial system and will face sanctions as may be deemed appropriate, making it more difficult for them to conduct their activities in the Philippines and abroad," DND Public Affairs Chief Director Arsenio Andolong said Wednesday.

In July 2017, the U.S. State Department said portions of Mindanao became a safe haven for ISIS terrorists in the previous year, after local terror groups, including the Maute group, pledged allegiance to the ISIS.

The Philippines was also the top five nations with the most number of terrorist attacks in 2016 worldwide — accounting for 12 out of 482 local terror attacks, or six percent of the total.

READ: Parts of PH became 'ISIS safe haven' in 2016 - U.S. gov't

READ: AFP Chief of Staff confirms ISIS funded Marawi siege

Local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and the New People's Army (NPA) have also been branded as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. The Duterte administration is also in the process of formalizing the terrorist designation of the NPA in the country.