Islamic State threatens Philippines in wake of Paris attacks

Manila downplays fears, Muslim rebels condemn killings in France
Islamic State threatens Philippines in wake of Paris attacks

In this Nov. 15 photo, Filipino activists light candles to express their solidarity with the victims of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. (Photo by Clemente Bautista)

Hours after the deadly attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, a video of what appeared to be masked gunmen standing in front of an Islamic State group flag appeared online, threatening an imminent attack on the Philippines.

The Philippines is set to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that will bring together many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, in Manila starting Nov. 18.

"The dark days are coming to you ... We will terrorize you even in your sleep. We will kill you and defeat you," the video message said.

The video, which was addressed to the Philippine government, warned that an attack would happen "soon."

Attack threats from Islamist groups in the Philippines are nothing new.

In 2002, the United States declared the southern Philippine region of Mindanao as its "second front" in the "war on terrorism" after a series of attacks launched by the Abu Sayyaf Group, an al-Qaida-linked organization.

Security analyst Rommel Banlaoi, director of the Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies, said Filipinos "should not be complacent about the threat posed by (the Islamic State group)."

He said there are at least six self-proclaimed Islamic State groups in the Philippines "bandwagoning on the popularity" of the group.

"Right now (the Islamic State group) is very aggressive in recruiting followers through social media ... They don't need to send actual organizers to go to the Philippines. They just need to access the Internet and start recruiting people," Banlaoi said in an interview.

He said the Philippines is vulnerable to the radical ideas of the Islamic State group because of "underlying conditions" especially in poor Muslim communities in the southern part of the country.

 

Philippines downplays threats

Philippine officials on Nov. 16 assured the public that this week's APEC summit in Manila would not be affected by the attacks in Paris.

"Based on our monitoring, there is no serious threat monitored in the conduct of the APEC summit," said military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.

"We're looking forward to a safe, secure, peaceful and successful summit," he said.

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Philippine authorities have already issued a "red alert" around Manila in the wake of the Paris bombings and shootings.

Padilla downplayed a possible attack on the country despite reports that the terror group Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao have already pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

"The possibility of an (Islamic State) presence here is very remote," said Padilla.

 

Volatile situation in Mindanao

Even before the rise of the Islamic State in 2014, the southern Philippine region of Mindanao has been on the radar of international security observers due to a series of bomb attacks and kidnappings committed by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

In September this year, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro warned of a rise of Islamic extremism in Mindanao especially if the Philippine government fails to address the clamor of Muslim Filipinos for an autonomous region in the southern part of the country.

"A failed (peace process) will favor the growth of extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism in Mindanao. It will not help solve the conflict," Ledesma told ucanews.com.

Muslim rebel groups, however, condemned the attacks in Paris.

In a statement issued on Nov. 14, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, said the "blind, indiscriminate acts of violence deserve nothing but condemnation."

"This is unacceptable. The MILF rejects acts of terror against humanity and all peace-loving peoples," the group said.

In another statement, the Moro National Liberation Front said the attacks are "stupid and crazy," adding that the attackers "have twisted ideology, which they masquerade to have Islamic content."

The Islamic State group, the statement read, "does not and will never represent Islam and Muslims. They twist and misrepresent the teachings of Islam to suit their evil agenda."

 

Church reaction

Church leaders in Manila have urged the faithful to pray not only for the victims of the Paris attacks but also for the attackers so that "a new sense of humanity will possess their souls again."

"There is no place for terrorism in a civilized society," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic bishops' conference. "Causing the death of anyone is a sin against God and a crime against humanity," said the prelate on Nov. 15.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, also urged the Filipino faithful to "unite ourselves with the many people who are suffering and the victims of violence." 

"We cannot isolate ourselves from what is happening in different parts of the world," he said, adding that the Catholic church joins the whole world in "sadness and in shock."

Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said that what happened in France is "saddening."

 

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