The Philippines said on Friday it was concerned that Islamic State jihadists could recruit its nationals working in the Middle East, a day after militants linked to the group carried out an attack on Jakarta.
President Benigno Aquino told reporters that Philippine intelligence authorities would ask their Middle East counterparts to monitor possible radicalisation within the Filipino community in the region, which numbers up to two million.
Aquino said there was no “credible threat” of attacks by the Islamic State group (IS) in the Philippines in the wake of Thursday’s attacks in the Indonesian capital, which left two civilians and five attackers dead, but warned of a “general threat”.
“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 ISIS,” he said, using another acronym for the group.
“We can’t be like an ostrich, which burrows its head in the ground to avoid seeing the problem,” he said.
“Is there a credible threat? Is there a specific threat? There is none. Is there a general threat? Yes. We are not immune from the extremism problem.”
In particular, he said a Filipino-Lebanese and a Filipino-Saudi, both of whom were living abroad, had attempted to join the jihadist group.
This month, the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf extremist group released a video pledging allegiance to IS.
Aquino, however, belittled the group’s claim and said they were riding on IS’s notoriety. The group had previously been associated with IS rival Al-Qaeda, he noted.
The Abu Sayyaf, a group of several hundred fighters notorious for kidnapping foreigners for ransom, is also responsible for the worst terror attacks in the Philippines. In 2004, it bombed a passenger ferry off Manila Bay killing over 100 people.