A bigger problem is looming for the country’s security forces if a prediction by a Washington-based think tank becomes true.
The terror group ISIS has started a comeback that could be “more deadly than the havoc it wreaked” at the height of its power in 2014, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
The jihadist organization is “resurging” in Iraq and Syria five months after US President Donald Trump declared ISIS “100 percent” defeated, the institute said as reported by Britain’s THE SUN newspaper.
This means that the Philippines will not see the last of ISIS-trained “homegrown” suicide bombers such as the ones that attacked a military camp in Sulu in June, which prompted local defense officials and military analysts to say it “raised the level of extremism” in the country.
If a new caliphate is set up in Iraq and Syria, the Washington institute said the terror group “will incite new waves of ISIS attacks across Europe” and possibly the Philippines, where ISIS-allied Abu Sayyaf forces seized and laid waste to Marawi City in 2017.
“ISIS’s next breakout success could be even more devastating than its 2014 campaign,” the report stated. “Its external provinces outside Iraq and Syria are contributing resources to its insurgency in those countries while giving the organization renewed global momentum.”
The terror group’s ability “to campaign simultaneously abroad and in Iraq and Syria gives it new opportunities,” the ISW added.
ISIS “is stronger today than its predecessor Al Qaida in Iraq was in 2011 when the US withdrew from Iraq,” the report added.
In a previous report titled “ISIS’s Second Comeback” that it published in June, ISW noted that the jihadist group sent its allies in Mindanao enough financial aid to attempt a takeover of Marawi.
“ISIS continued to pursue additional land grabs in other parts of the globe. It achieved its next major success in the Philippines in May 2017, when its fighters seized Marawi, located in the country’s south, three days before the start of Ramadan,” the June report said.
“ISIS had reportedly wired tens of thousands of dollars from Syria to the Philippines in 2016, probably to enable the attack on Marawi. The operation drew significant numbers of foreign fighters to the Philippines and propelled the ISIS expansion in Southeast Asia,” ISW said.
The group would ultimately lose control of Marawi, “but its temporary seizure of the city again demonstrated to its followers that it could continue to expand and claim terrain despite its losses in Iraq and Syria,” the think tank added.
However, the extremists tried again, as suicide bombers attacked a military camp in Indanan town in Sulu killed eight people and wounded 22 others on June 28.
The military later identified the Filipino suicide bomber as Norman Lasuca, 23, who was identified by his parents. The second bomber was described as Caucasian but was unidentified.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the blast was the third suicide attack on the country, following a July 2018 van bomb in southern Basilan island, and explosions during Sunday mass in January at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo.
All three attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group, which takes credit for the violence carried out by local affiliates such as kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf.
The military said Lasuca was a member of the Abu Sayyaf faction led by Hajan Sawadjaan, who allegedly plotted the attack on the Jolo cathedral in January.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, including frequent kidnappings of foreigners.
Members of the group have pledged allegiance to IS, including those who participated in the 2017 siege of Marawi.
Analysts at the time said suicide attacks could be taking root in the Philippines, driven by IS influence.
At the height of its power five years ago, ISIS had seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” and committing widespread atrocities.
The think tank noted ISIS is seeking to reestablish territorial control “and will succeed if the US continues to withdraw troops from Syria,” calling on the American government to support the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the terrorists.
Trump is repeating a “critical mistake” by not capitalizing on the fragile gains made against the terror groups, the report’s authors believe.
“The US must take immediate steps to dampen ISIS’s resurgence in Iraq and Syria, including halting and reversing America’s ongoing withdrawal from Syria,” the report reads.