Security expert: 23 armed groups fused, forming 'ISIS Philippines'

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is validating reports that 23 armed groups in the country are now consolidating their forces under one name, "ISIS Philippines."

ISIS Philippines is among the groups recently declared terrorists by the US State Department.

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

Security analyst Rommel Banlaoi identified the 23 groups as follows:

1. Ansar Dawlah Fi Filibbin (ADFF)
2. Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM)
3. Al Warakarul Islamiyah Battalion
4. Jama'at Ansar Khilafa
5. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
6. Ansharul Khilafa Philippines Battalion
7. Bangsamoro Justice Movement
8. Khilafa Islamiya Mindanao (KIM)
9. Abu Sayyaf Group (Hapilon faction)
10. Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon
11. Jama'atul Tawheed Wal Jihad (IS Lanao in Butig)
12. Ma'rakah Al-Ansar Battalion
13. Dawla Islamiyyah Cotabato
14. Dawlat Al Islamiya Waliyatul Masrik
15. Ansar Al-Shariah Battalion
16. Jamaah Al-Tawhid wal Jihad Philippines
17. Jundul-Tawhid Battalion (ASG Sulu)
18. Abu Dujanah Battalion
19. Abu Khubayn Battalion
20. Jundallah Battalion
21. Abu Sadr Battalion
22. Jamaah Al Muhajirin Wal Anshor (Philipina)
23. Islamic State of Marawi

Banlaoi said most of these groups are based in Mindanao.

"We are trying to confirm the veracity of that information. Yesterday, informal reports came in regarding the matter and I referred it to our intelligence community and operations and people on the ground. We are trying to confirm that," said military spokesman BGen. Bienvenido Datuin in an ambush interview.

But the military admitted that after the Marawi Seige ended in October 2017, remnants of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group are now trying to recover by recruiting, reorganizing and retraining to rebuild their losses during the five-month-war.

"We are not discounting the possibility that they plan another attack. That's what we are trying to preempt," said Datuin.

Metro Manila, a target

Two alleged high-profile ISIS-affiliated personalities were arrested in Metro Manila in a month, Tunisian Fehmi Lassoued and Maute Group Sub-leader Nasser Lomondot.

RELATED: PNP, AFP arrest suspected foreign terrorist in Manila

RELATED: Suspected Maute sub-leader arrested in Tondo - NCRPO chief

With their arrest, authorities are not discounting the possibility that terror groups are planning an attack in Metro Manila.

In fact, in a leaked confidential memorandum from the Philippine National Police in Region 10, Manila is among the six areas that are allegedly targets of 'ISIS bombers'.

"Their targets are the populated areas, malls, and plazas. Cities mentioned are Zamboanga, Davao, Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, CDO, and cities of Northern and Southern Luzon," the document stated citing a text message received by the regional intelligence office.

The PNP confirmed the authenticity of the document but it's content is still subject for validation.

"The document is authentic. It really came from R2 of PRO 10, yung intelligence. However, the contents of that document requesting for validation is yet to be validated," said Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman CSupt. John Bulalacao in a phone interview.

Bulalacao said PNP Region 10 has already launched an investigation saying that whoever leaked the document will be met with administrative cases.

Bulalacao advised the public to refrain from circulating or sharing the documents in social media so avoid public panic.

Post-Marawi analysis

Jasminder Singh of Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said millions of dollars looted in Marawi City are "being used for recruitment."

Singh added that ISIS-inspired groups are already planning their next move, with new cells emerging in other parts of Mindanao like Jolo, Cotabato, and Basilan.

Singh and Banlaoi also noted that some leaders of ISIS-inspired groups are still alive:

1. Abu Dar - the alleged leader of ISIS in Southeast Asia replacing Isnilon Hapilon.
2. Amin Baco - the Malaysian who worked with the Abu Sayyaf Group and notorious terrorists like Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
3. Abu Turaifie - leader of a break-away group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
4. Mauwiyah - a Singaporean-Indian who is known to be one of the longest staying foreign terrorists in Mindanao.

"The remaining jihadists of ISIS Philippines are still propagating the ideology of ISIS and they are taking advantage of the existing grievances of people in Mindanao," said Banlaoi.

The alleged new Emir of ISIS in the Philippines and Southeast Asia Abu Dar is said to be staying in Pagayawan town in Lanao Del Sur.

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesman of the provincial government of Lanao Del Sur said the presence of remnants of terror groups in the province threatens the efforts to stabilize the peace and order situation and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi City.

With this, they are continuously working with the security sector to flush-out terror groups in their area.

"The idea really is one: identify areas where these terrorist organizations are possibly hiding; number two is to remove possible mass base support; and number three is to entice all mayors, LGUs in the province to work closely with our security sector," Adiong said in a video statement.

The military, however, assured that they are on top of the situation as they monitor the movements of these groups.

Authorities also ask for the public's vigilance to quell threats posed by terror groups in the Philippines.