Small Wars Journal

How ISIS Is Rising in the Philippines as It Dwindles in the Middle East

How ISIS Is Rising in the Philippines as It Dwindles in the Middle East by Hannah Beech and Jason Gutierrez – New York Times

BASILAN, the Philippines - Across the islands of the southern Philippines, the black flag of the Islamic State is flying over what the group considers its East Asia province.

 

Men in the jungle, two oceans away from the arid birthplace of the Islamic State, are taking the terrorist brand name into new battles.

 

As worshipers gathered in January for Sunday Mass at a Catholic cathedral, two bombs ripped through the church compound, killing 23 people. The Islamic State claimed a pair of its suicide bombers had caused the carnage.

 

An illustration circulated days later on Islamic State chat groups, showing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines kneeling on a pile of skulls and a militant standing over him with a dagger. The caption on the picture sounded a warning: “The fighting has just begun.”

The Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria, once the size of Britain, has shriveled after four years of American-backed bombing and ground combat by Kurdish and Shiite militia fighters. What is left is a tiny village in southeast Syria that could fall any day.

But far from defeated, the movement has sprouted elsewhere. And here in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines, long a haven for insurgents because of dense wilderness and weak policing, the Islamic State has attracted a range of militant jihadists…

Read on.