Alleged Islamic State Recruiter Arrested in Southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato, Philippines
2021-09-21
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Alleged Islamic State Recruiter Arrested in Southern Philippines Philippine troops travel to the southern city of Marawi to battle Islamic State-linked militants, June 13, 2017.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

A Filipino man suspected of facilitating the recruitment of new fighters for the regional branch of the Islamic State militant group has been arrested in the southern Philippines, police said Tuesday.

The suspect, identified as Samer Ali, 29, was caught on Monday when government forces raided his hideout in Polomolok, a town in the foothills of an imposing mountain range in South Cotabato province, police said.

Arresting officers seized a grenade from the suspect, who is also being sought for murder, according to provincial police commander Col. Jemuel Siason, who did not provide details about the alleged crime.

The man was suspected of “facilitating the recruitment for new members of the Islamic State” in Polomolok and the nearby municipality of Tboli, Siason told BenarNews.

“We surveilled his movements prior to the arrest,” Siason said. “He is now detained.”

Officials said Islamic militants frequently fled to the jungles and mountains of South Cotabato to serve as hideouts from military operations.

In January, five members of the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), a Filipino militant group linked with Islamic State (IS), were killed during raids in South Cotabato. In the same month, four family members allegedly working with AKP were killed in another operation in Tboli town, according to police.

IS-linked militants were blamed for a siege in 2017 that led to a five-month battle with government forces, leaving the southern city of Marawi in ruins. AKP militants allegedly joined the fighting.

While about 1,200 militants, security forces and civilians were killed in the battle that ended in October 2017, authorities said those who escaped spread across Mindanao in the south and have set out to recruit Muslim fighters across the mainly Catholic country.

Rommel Banlaoi, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the recent fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban insurgent movement could lead militants there to reach parts of Southeast Asia, including the southern Philippines.

“They can apply as refugees to penetrate the Philippines,” Banlaoi said.

Meanwhile, Banlaoi identified the new leader of the Maute militant group as Commander Ker Mimbantas, also known as Commander Zacaria. The Mautes were a core group of militants who helped carry out the Marawi siege.

Mimbantas, a senior Maute militant, has more than 40 followers, some of whom used to work with planners of the Marawi siege, according to Banlaoi.

Recently, the group of Mimbantas clashed with the military in Munai town in Lanao del Norte province. Also, they released a video of their ongoing training,” Banlaoi told BenarNews.

The military intelligence unit in the south has said it has seen a copy of the training video and are seeking to verify the information.

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