Islamic State attack in southern Philippines underlines group's links to Sulu

by Ben Pierce

On 25 June, the Islamic State claimed to have killed and wounded 10 Filipino soldiers in an attack in the southern Philippines, which the group alleged had taken place on 23 June. The claim was released via Islamic State-affiliated channels on messaging platforms Hoop and RocketChat in the name of the group’s regional affiliate Wilayat Sharq Asiyya, or its East Asia Province. According to the claim, the attack took place in the village of Bangayaha, located in the Patikul area of Jolo Island in the country’s Sulu province, and that the militants involved were armed with machine-guns. There were no reports in local media of an attack on 23 June. However, a report in news site BenarNews said the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an Islamist militant group of which some factions have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, had killed at least one soldier and wounded nine others in an ambush on the army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion in an unnamed rural area of Patikul on 22 June.

A screenshot of the 25 June claim issued by the Islamic State on messaging platforms Hoop and RocketChat.  (Source withheld. )

A screenshot of the 25 June claim issued by the Islamic State on messaging platforms Hoop and RocketChat. (Source withheld. )

The ASG is a loose network of militants involved in a range of criminal activities, including kidnappings for ransom and Islamist-inspired acts of violence. In 2014, a faction of the group led by Isnilon Hapilon declared allegiance to the Islamic State and was involved in the 2017 siege of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur province, in which a coalition of Islamic State-linked militants took control of the city and resisted military attempts to recapture it for five months. During the siege, much of the city was destroyed, and approximately 1,200 people, including Hapilon, were killed. Following his death, the group’s leadership passed to another ASG militant, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

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On 25 June, the Islamic State claimed to have killed and wounded 10 Filipino soldiers in an attack i...

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