ISIS weaponizes social media to 'glorify' suicide bombing in Philippines: analyst
The Islamic State militant group is using social media to "glorify" suicide bombing, a tactic used last weekend in the southern province of Sulu, an analyst said Friday.
A suspected suicide bomber was killed in the Sept. 8 attack near a military detachment in Sulu, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a band of militants that had pledged allegiance to ISIS. It was the fourth suicide bombing in Mindanao since 2017.
Suicide terrorism in the Philippines traces its roots to the Tausug of Mindanao who used the attack to fend off Spanish and American colonizers, said Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies.
Extremists attempted to revive the tactic during a 2000s ferry bombing in Lamitan, Basilan, "but there was a conventional knowledge that Filipinos were not yet prepared to sacrifice their lives -- until ISIS emerged," said Banlaoi.
"ISIS changed everything and made it (suicide attacks) like the most effective, most favored... because [it's] high-impact, easy. It can resonate to others that offering your life is a worthwhile endeavor. You will be martyred," he told ANC.
"The most convincing way to convert people to embrace the idea of suicide terrorism is the social media. They started sharing a lot of literature and narratives glorifying suicide terrorism," he added.
The youth, especially the out-of-school and those who have family problems, are the most vulnerable to extremist indoctrination, said Banlaoi.
Countering extremism cannot be done through military might alone, but needs a "narrative that will destroy the idea of suicide terrorism as an act of martyrdom" through programs for education, livelihood and promoting a culture of nonviolence, he said.
The Bangsamoro, a new autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao, "ideally could be an antidote to violent extremism if [it] can perform, can really meet the expectations of the people," said Banlaoi.
The region, however, "is having difficulty in the transition process" because it "does not have enough material resources," including funds and human resources.
Mindanao is troubled by banditry and armed rebellions that keep large parts of the region mired in poverty and instability.
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to wipe out Abu Sayyaf and has intensified military operations in its strongholds, though bombings targeting civilians and military have continued unabated. With a report from Reuters
ANC, September 13, 2019