MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday downplayed the assessment of a Singapore-based terror expert that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may soon establish a "wilayat" or province in Mindanao.
"To date, there is no credible, verified and direct link established, and the possibility of establishing of a satellite is unlikely. There remains no credible and direct connection to the bigger group in the Middle East up to this time," AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.
Padilla was pertaining to the statement of analyst Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qaeda and head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, that the next step ISIS is likely to take in the Philippines is the declaration of wilayat in Mindanao.
On January 4, a video circulated in a jihadi forum, showing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Ansar al-Khilafa leader Abu Sharifa marching with other extremist leaders and pledging allegiance with the ISIS.
But according to Padilla, the video was not that new, noting that some of the personalities shown had been killed during a military offensive in Basilan in December.
Padilla also reiterated that there is no proof that there is a direct connection between the ISIS and local terrorist groups.
"The recent pronouncement of ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon is part of their propaganda and does not necessarily reflect the existence of an ISIS-directed terror operation in the country," he said.