Philippines warns of potential IS recruitment of Filipino expats

Philippines warns of potential IS recruitment of Filipino expats
Philippines President Benigno Aquino said that security services would work with their Middle East counterparts to monitor Filipino expats working in the Gulf and Mashraq.
2 min read
15 January, 2016
Filipino IS-linked group Abu Sayyaf are responsible for brutal insurgency in the Philippines [AFP]

There are fears that some of the two million Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East could be potential recruits for the Islamic State group.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino said to counter this threat his country's intelligence services could work with their Middle East counterparts to monitor signs of possible radicalisation among the Filipino community, which is particularly well entrenched in the Gulf region.

So far, there was no "credible threat" of attacks by IS in the Philippines, Aquino said.

But tensions are high following an IS assault on civilian targets in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Thursday, which left two civilians and five attackers dead.

With this attack in a neighbouring Muslim-majority country taking place, the president warned of a "general threat" in the largely Catholic populated archipelago state.

"We need to be prudent. We will coordinate with (Middle Eastern) intelligence agencies to monitor these communities to see if they have been influenced by [IS]," AFP reported the president saying.

"We can't be like an ostrich, which burrows its head in the ground to avoid seeing the problem," he added.

He said that although the Philippines was not facing a specific threat at present, there was a more general risk of extremism in the country.

"Yes. We are not immune from the extremism problem."

He said that a Filipino-Lebanese and a Filipino-Saudi had attempted to join IS.

There was also a threat from the Abu Sayyaf extremist group. The Islamist insurgency force has fought a vicious war with Filipino authorities in the southern Philippines and killed many civlians.

The leadership recently released a video pledging allegiance to IS.

Before, the group was affiliated to al-Qaeda, and the president dismissed the move as a publicity stunt, riding on the back of IS' notoriety.

However, the group boasts several hundred fighters and are responsible for the killing of thousands of Filipinos, including a passenger ferry off Manila Bay leading to 100 deaths.