Military monitoring intensified recruitment by armed groups

Ruth Abbey Gita

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, December 15, expressed worries about reports of intensified recruitment by armed lawless groups inspired by global terror group Islamic State.

AFP spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo said the military is monitoring the "intensified" recruitment activities of Maute terror group members who survived the five-month battle with government troops in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

"The recruitment we are monitoring is from remnants of Maute/ISIS (IS of Iraq and Syria) group. We monitored (such recruitment) in the municipalities around Marawi, the immediate vicinity of Marawi," the military spokesman told a press conference.

"They continue to intensify, in the sense that they do not stop their recruitment. They continue to encourage anyone to join their force. And of course, they continue to offer financial remunerations. They also used social media as a tool for their recruitment activities," he added.

Another group, which Arevalo said is being led by a certain Abu Turayfie, is also reportedly ramping up its membersbip. Turayfie is believed to be the successor of purported IS emir in Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed along with Maute leader Omar Maute in Marawi in October.

Arevalo said that while Turayfie's group has only 22 members, it is still deemed a "big threat" because of its capability to endanger the lives of the people in southern Philippines.

"We cannot underestimate them because they are only few. Maybe the 22 is what we could mention with certainty or report with certainty. But their ability to recruit, their mobility, the number of their weapons, and their capability to conduct terrorist activity cannot be measured by their number," he said.

"We don't need to be a large group. The point of saying is they are capable, among other reasons that they are cited (as basis) for the extension of martial law. They are among those considered as a big threat because the group of Abu Turayfie has leaning towards extremism," he added.

Arevalo said these extremist groups were targeting to recruit their relatives and "vulnerable" children.

Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting broke out between the Maute group and government forces in Marawi.

Combat operations were terminated on October 23, or exactly five months later. The military, however, is still conducting clearing operations in the Islamic city.

Congress on Wednesday agreed to extend martial law by another year, or until December 31, 2018, in a bid to totally eradicate the terror acts of terrorist groups like the communist New People's Army and other armed lawless groups.

To counter recruitment efforts of these armed groups, Arevalo said the government has launched several programs for the youth.

"We are countering violent extremism dialogues with the youth. We also have youth leader summit. And just recently, we concluded the education tour of Muslim youth in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our objective is to give our fellow countrymen, especially the youth, a chance to realize what is extremism (and) how is recruitment being done by these extremists," he said.

"These are among the ways we see to promote unity and have a fruitful and mutual co-existence," he said. (SunStar Philippines)