Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned that the Daesh terrorist group could establish a stronghold in the southern Philippines, the nearest territory to mainland Australia to likely become a hotbed of terrorist activities.
Bishop told local media on Sunday that the leader of the Philippines-based Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorist group had recently been declared an “emir” — a title given to the leader of a so-called Daesh caliphate.
Citing that development, Bishop said, “There is concern ISIS may well seek to declare a caliphate in the southern Philippines,” using an English acronym for Daesh. “This brings the threat right to our doorstep.”
Daesh, which first emerged in the Middle East and later spread to North Africa and Afghanistan, has been suffering heavy losses in Iraq and Syria, the two countries where it has been significantly active. There is now concern that efforts to eradicate Daesh in those countries are pushing the terrorists to seek a foothold elsewhere.
Bishop said about 600 militants from Southeast Asia had been in the Middle East fighting for Daesh and could soon return to the region as the Takfiri group loses more territory to security forces fighting to take back land overrun by the outfit.
She said that Australian security forces had already been working closely with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia to identify and eradicate terrorist elements in the region.
The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which has been conducting bombings, abductions, assassinations, and extortions since its emergence in 1991 with seed money from al-Qaeda, pledged allegiance to Daesh in the summer of 2014.
The Philippine government has been involved in military operations against the group in the south of the country.
Abu Sayyaf’s power has reportedly diminished particularly since 2002, when it was internationally declared a terrorist organization. In 2012, it was estimated that the number of the group’s members had fallen from an estimated 1,250 in 2000 to between 200 and 400 members.
But it could see battle-hardened terrorists coming in from elsewhere, including Iraq and Syria.