Extremism is still posing threat to Philippines, despite of declaring victory over the ISIS-aligned militants in Marawi less than two weeks ago.
As the government tries to solve problems in Marawi, the region with mostly Muslim population, by giving high degree of autonomy, the threat now comes from the southern island of Mindanao. There were two bombs explosion which left many casualties.
In response to this attack, Rodrigo Duterte claimed to cope with extremists in most harmful way. He has ordered to “destroy” ISIS-linked group, which is thought to be responsible for the attack to the church last Sunday.
“That is always my order. Destroy the Abu Sayyaf, destroy the (communist insurgent group New People’s Army), and destroy the drug organizations. If destroying (means) killing, if you are interested to know, yes,” said Duterte concerning this attack.
More than 5000 soldiers from ten Philippines army and marine battalions were engaged in hunting for the bombing suspects. There have been airstrikes against one of the cells of Abu Sayyaf Groups (ASG) called Ajang Ajang, carried out in Mindanao. Ommal Usop, one of the suspects of Sunday attack and active member of Ajang Ajang group, was killed during the armed forces operation on Tuesday.
ASG has emerged in recent years and is believed to be responsible for the series of violent activities, beginning from Marawi bomb attack to the kidnapping, often targeting foreign nationals.
Experts state that Duterte’s plan to eradicate extremism and to destroy ASG may be impossible despite of taking such serious steps like retaking Marawi.
“It’s clear that ASG has deep roots in the local population and whether we’re dealing with people linked to ISIS, or we’re dealing with the kidnap-for-ransom industry that ASG is also involved in, we’re dealing with a community that directly benefits from ASG operations, in terms of income, social status and political power,” director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Sidney Jones said.
Moreover, according to the polls conducted last year by Merdeka Center, almost 6% of Filipino Muslims said they “would use violence or join a violent organization to defend their faith,” and more than half said that “waging war was the only way to conduct jihad”.
“That is something that ISIS knows, and they’re going to try and capitalize on that,”, stated in the Merdeka Center report. “It’s clear now that you don’t solve terrorism with a purely military strategy, and until that lesson is learned we’re going to have problems in the Philippines as far as we can see,” claims Jones.