Terror groups that continue to target the Philippines and its ASEAN neighbors

A year after the Philippine military finished off at least 800 ISIS-inspired militants in the Islamic city of Marawi, four terror groups continue to remain a security threat for the Southern Philippines region, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its ASEAN neighbors.

Military authorities identify four terror groups – Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Maute Group, the Ansar al-Khilafa and the Abu Sayyaf group operating in the islands – as existing security threat to the region.

With this growing threat, the Philippine Police and the Philippine Army in the ARMM region this week signed a working agreement during a meeting at Camp Siongco, Maguindanao province, to secure areas from vulnerable attacks by terror groups who pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Major General Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and General Graciano Mijares of the Police Regional Office of ARMM represented the Army and Police organizations respectively to sign the collaborative security agreement.

The collaboration is part of the government strategy to eliminate all forms of terrorism particularly in the southern Philippines to comply with the President’s order. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year directed the military to “destroy and kill” extremists who described them as supporters of “bankrupt” ideology.

Abu Sayyaf group

Of the four terror groups, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) remains the most potent security threat not only to the Philippines but to neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. The ASG is presently holding 10 captives – a Dutch national, a Vietnamese and eight Filipinos in Sulu. The group also remains a maritime threat known for abducting sailors from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Despite the death of its leader Isnilon Hapilon, in the infamous Marawi battle last year, the militant group easily re-established itself again. Close to a hundred Abu Sayyaf fighters this week killed three marine soldiers in the on-going battle in the island province of Sulu. The ASG was established in the 1990s by mercenaries assigned in Afghanistan and evolved to become Southeast Asia’s most feared terror group.

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