The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday, July 12, welcomed the reported death of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“This is good news and pleasant sign in the future,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told Inquirer.
Padilla said the reported death of the ISIS chief could pave way toward the total destruction of the Maute group, an Islamic State (IS)-inspired group that launched an attack in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur in Mindanao last May 23.
“Because the person giving direction to the groups in Marawi is gone, then the infrastructure coming from the Middle East will be interrupted and destroyed, and this can pave the way for the consequent breakdown of this group,” Padilla explained.
Earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said it “confirmed information” that Baghdadi has been killed.
Pentagon, for its part, said it could not yet confirm the death of the ISIS chief. ISIS-affiliated websites and social media feeds also neither confirm nor deny the report.
Rumors about Baghdadi’s death emerged several times in the past, though such reports could not be independently verified.
Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said it was Baghdadi himself who “specifically ordered the conduct of terroristic activities in the Philippines.”
Washington previously expressed alarm over the growing presence of jihadis in Southeast Asia amid the ongoing battle between the Philippine troopers and the Maute group in Marawi City.
Asked about the possibility of an IS invasion in Southeast Asia, Padilla said the Philippine government already started to coordinate with its neighboring countries for enhanced security measures.
“We have begun joint efforts with all the countries in our region. We started with Malaysia, Indonesia, and reinforced security measures to screen entry of anyone coming from the Middle East,” Padilla said.
On June 23, in a trilateral security meeting hosted by Manila, the governments of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have agreed to boost their cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism that continues to threaten the region.
The three countries have agreed for intensified trilateral efforts to repel extremists and prevent them from making any part of the region a base for their operations.