Defeated Islamic State (ISIS) militants from the Middle East are seeking refuge in the southern Philippines hoping to open a Southeast Asian front in the region, a rebel leader said on Tuesday.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Ebrahim Murad told a forum that his group has received reports that “a Canadian-Arab” man recently arrived in the southern Philippine Mindanao region.
“We see that the coming in of the extremists, either individual or group, is continuing.
“They are coming in from the porous borders in the south.
“Based on our own intelligence information, foreign fighters who were displaced from the Middle East continued to enter into our porous borders.
“They may be planning to take Iligan and Cotabato,’’ Murad said, referring to the two cities in the southern island of Mindanao.
Murad said suspected terrorists from Indonesia and Malaysia were also sneaking into the country using southern backdoor region.
“We observe that there are some Middle Eastern people coming in and we just received report there was even a Canadian-Arab Muslim who came in just recently,’’ he noted.
He added that the man in his mid-20s even visited Patikul, Sulu, a known lair of the Abu Sayyaf group, in January.
Mindanao continues to be under martial law.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial rule after local terrorists, with the help of their foreign comrades, attacked Marawi City in May 2017.
The attack has however triggered a five-month intense fighting that ruined the city and claimed the lives of over 1,200 people.