UNITED States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said many extremist groups around the world, like the Abu Sayyaf, are trying to affiliate themselves with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Daesh, by staging attacks in the name of the Islamist group.
“It is a worldwide phenomenon,” Carter said of groups that are staging terror attacks in sympathy for ISIS. “That maybe what we are seeing here in the Philippines, that would be consistent with a pattern you’ve seen around the world.”
“That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important that ISIS be destroyed in Syria and Iraq, which I am confident we will do with our coalition partners. That will demonstrate that there is no such thing as an Islamic State based upon this hateful ideology,” Carter added.
The US official made the remark after ISIS claimed responsibility for clashes between Abu Sayyaf militants and government troops that led to the death of 23 people.
But the military dismissed the claim as “mere propaganda.”
“I’d like to say that this is not true,” military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said of Daesh’s claim that it detonated seven trucks filled with soldiers, leading to the death of 23 soldiers.
“This news that came out allegedly said that they blew up seven trucks, they killed 23 soldiers and the attack was initiated by the ASG. These are not true and inconsistent with the real events on the ground,” Padilla told reporters.
“This is very inconsistent with what is really happening on the ground and as such we are bent on finishing whatever operations we have ongoing,” Padilla emphasized.
One of the killed terrorists during the first salvo of ambush that resulted to a 10-hour firefight was Mohammad Khattab, who, defense and military officials said was in Basilan “to unify all Islamist groups.”
Khattab was with the group of known ASG sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon and Radzmil Jannatul, who, the military claimed was seriously wounded. Jannatul’s son, Amah, was also slain in the clash.
Meanwhile, Padilla said the number of slain Abu bandits has climbed from 31, but about half of the number is still being validated on site.
“Today, we received report that that number has increased to 31 and about half of that number is for further validation,” he said.
He said most of the dead bandits were seriously wounded during the first day of clash in Barangay Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town. More troops were inserted into the war zone.