By Roy C. Mabasa and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
The Philippines welcomed the designation on Wednesday by the US State Department of ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) and as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
The State Department labeled ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group, along with two other ISIS-affiliated groups – ISIS-West Africa and ISIS-Bangladesh–as SDGTs pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13224 and as FTO pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
EO 13224 was issued by US President George W. Bush on September 23, 2001, as a response to the 9/11 attacks and which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. It imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the US.
As a result of these designations, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group. The groups’ property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are also blocked. In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to the said organizations.
The Maute Group is one of seven Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliate groups listed by the State Department as terrorist organizations from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Egypt, Somalia, Tunisia, and West Africa.
Campaign vs terror
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the development proves the Philippine government’s belief that the Maute Group is being aided by foreign elements.
“The official designation of the Maute Group as an affiliate group of ISIS and its inclusion in the US list of foreign terrorist organizations are positive developments in the campaign against terrorism,”Roque said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“This reaffirms our long-held belief that the Maute Group is composed of local terrorists aided by foreign extremists,” he added.
The Palace official also said that the official designation recognizes the Philippine government’s actions against the Maute Group when they laid a five-month siege in Marawi City, Lanaodel Sur, from May to October, 2017.
“This likewise recognizes the decisive action we have taken in liberating Marawi from these terrorists, which resulted in the success of the government in thwarting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the area and the containing of the rebellion from spreading to other parts of the Philippines,”Roque said.
“Terrorism, indeed, knows no borders and the inclusion of the Maute Group in the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations as an affiliate group of ISIS shows the solidarity and resolve of the international community to flush out evil forces to make the world safe and secure,” he added.
“The Department has also designated four other ISIS-affiliated groups and two ISIS-affiliated leaders as SDGTs under Section 1(b) of E.O. 13224. The groups are ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, ISIS-Egypt, and the Maute Group, and the individuals are MahadMoalim and Abu Musab al-Barnawi,” the US top diplomatic agency added.
E.O. 13224 imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.
In including ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group, the State Department noted ISIS’s video of militants in the Philippines pledging allegiance to ISIS in June, 2016.
“In the video, militants encouraged other Muslims to join the terrorist group and support ISIS’s efforts in the region under the command of now-deceased SDGT Isnilon Hapilon – recognized by ISIS as the leader of ISIS-Philippines,” it said.
The State Department also noted the Maute Group’s declaration of their allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and for being an integral part of ISIS-Philippines.
“The Maute Group is responsible for the siege of the City of Marawi in the Philippines, which began in May, 2017; the September, 2016 Davao market bombing, which killed 15 people and wounded 70 others; and the attempted bomb attack in November, 2016, near the US embassy in Manila,” it added.
The Maute Group, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, is a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and foreign fighters led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a DawlahIslamiya, or Islamic state based in Lanaodel Sur.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said the Philippine government is “profoundly committed to preventing ISIS from gaining foothold in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.”
“Terrorism is a global and regional challenge, and cooperation with key allies is critical in averting terrorist operations,” said Abella. “While we have concluded a successful campaign in Marawi against the Maute group, countering terrorism continues to be a priority of this administration.”