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Islamic State fighters increase rapidly in Philippines; a new caliphate might come up, say experts

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Manila, Nov 14: The South-east Asian archipelago of Philippines has come under threat again since the presence of the Islamic State (IS) militants on its soil is rising. According to a report in the Guardian, there could be somewhere between 40 to 100 foreign fighters in the country now while the local pro-IS militant groups are gaining momentum.

Islamic State fighters increase rapidly in Philippines; a new caliphate might come up, say experts

It may be mentioned here that in May 2017, the city of Marawi city in southern Philippines' Mindanao island was overrun by IS extremists and a caliphate was declared. It was only after a prolonged struggle by the army that saw the government regain control. Twelve hundred lives were lost in the process though.

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Professor Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told the Guardian that he had seen records of up to 100 foreign fighters setting foot on the island aiming to establish an East Asia Isis province after the failure in Marawi last year. He also said that these fighters entered the Philippines from countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East.

Following the rise of the IS in 2014 in the Middle East, several Islamist groups in the Philippines vowed their allegiance to the emir of the IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They included fighters from Ansar al-Khilafah, Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Maute Group and other small factions that are active in Mindanao.

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The movement towards the Philippines has become intense following the fall of the Middle Eastern caliphate last year and according to Banlaoi, foreign fighters are entering the Philippines since they consider it, especially Mindanao, a safe haven, an alternative home base and new land for jihad. They help and also get helped by the local media, provide funds and help grow a global network.

A high-ranked intelligence official also gave figures that matched Banlaoi's words, the Guardian added. "There are about 40 foreign fighters remaining in the country, but 40 others are in the watchlist," the Guardian quoted the officer on the condition of anonymity.

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