By Pia Lee-Brago
Publish in Philstar
MANILA, Philippines - US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said yesterday the United States and the Philippines are watching very closely the possible recruitment of foreign fighters in the country by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
He said the US government is concerned about the recruitment of foreign fighters as jihadists who have gone to the Middle East from the United States, United Kingdom, from all over Europe, Australia and other places and wherever it may happen.
“We’re concerned about the idea of IS trying to recruit foreign fighters all around the world,” Goldberg said during the Kapihan sa Embahada at the US embassy on Roxas Blvd.
Areas for possible recruitment, he said, also include countries in Southeast Asia – the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Some Muslim extremist groups in the southern Mindanao have pledged allegiance to the IS.
Clips have been uploaded on the video-sharing site YouTube showing both southern Philippines-based Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf rebels pledging support to IS.
“We’ve taken note of the public announcements that have been made by some of the groups in the southern Philippines about IS... what I’m saying is we and the Philippine government are watching it very closely and it concerns us wherever it may be taking place,” Goldberg said.
The ambassador, however, said that the Philippines is not the “scenario of focus” because the recruitment is happening everywhere, including the West.
“ISIS as you all know is a different kind of threat, something that the whole world now faces and we’ve undertaken a very strong policy and series of actions to degrade and destroy this organization,” he said.
The return to the home countries of recruited foreign fighters from the Middle East is another issue that poses concern.
“So it’s something that we all need to be concerned about and the United States is leading an international coalition to deal with the issue of IS,” Goldberg said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military have been working together in the area of counterterrorism and dealing with some of the transnational groups that have been active in the Philippines.
“And we’ve had great success so we’ve already worked with the Philippines on those kinds of issues and we’ll continue to do so whether it is – in the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) area or the area of counterterrorism,” Goldberg said.