Still no concrete evidence of Abu Sayyaf-ISIS link: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2016 03:52 PM | Updated as of Sep 06 2016 06:07 PM

Retired US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and consultant Stephen Cutler on Tuesday said he believes there is still no proof of the alleged alliance between Abu Sayyaf and ISIS.

Speaking on ANC's Headstart, Cutler agreed with the Philippine military and police about the lack of sufficient concrete evidence on the link.

"I actually think the government, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) are correct in their assessment of the dangers of this so-called alliance (with ISIS). I don't think we have actual, concrete proof," he said.

Cutler noted, no one has been able to present proof that money exchanged between the two groups.

"There is word going around. I think it's what we can call moral support or friendship. From that, it’s kind of like the arm around your shoulders that keeps you strong, but I don't think we've gone beyond that," he said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami earlier said the September 2 blast in Davao City which left 14 dead and more than 60 wounded is a sign of unity of groups that have pledged their allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists as he warned of similar strikes. 

The Western Mindanao Command, however, said they would rather have their own intelligence sources confirm if the blast was indeed done by the terror group.

Cutler for his part does not believe that it is "really, terribly relevant" whether or not the Abu Sayyaf's claim is true, and noted that there is "something of an academic discussion" on whether or not the Abu Sayyaf is allied with the Islamic State.

"The point is these groups are killing people. The point is these groups are kidnapping people, and that's what we need to focus on," he said.

"Who's doing what in the kind of an order of battle kind of thing was, I think, significant in the old days, but in today's world, I'm not so sure that that's terribly significant," he said.

What matters now, he said, is a response "to try to stop the kidnaps, to stop the killings and the extortions" from the government and the society working together.