A jihadist known as Abu ‘Atikah al Muhajir posted several photographs purporting to show two “lions of the Arabian Peninsula” who joined his group in the southern Philippines. The photographs [one shown above] and a brief accompanying statement were posted on jihadist forums on Oct. 2 and were obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, which also translated the statement. The identity of the two AQAP fighters was not provided, and the faces of those in the images have been blacked out.
Abu ‘Atikah identified himself as one of “your mujahideen brothers in Tawhid and Jihad Group in the Land of the Philippines of Pride” and attributed the statement to the “Islamic Emirate of Mindanao (Soon).”
On Oct. 3, one day after the photos were posted, Abu ‘Atikah released a statement announcing the death of a “brother” known as Abdullah. According to the statement, which was accompanied by photos of the slain fighter, Abdullah was killed in a clash near Cotabato on the island of Mindanao.
Al Qaeda-linked groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah have long operated in the southern Philippines and have been sheltered by local Islamist groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.
US and Philippine authorities believe they have made major progress against the more radical elements such as the Abu Sayyaf. See this report in Stars & Stripes from Sept. 28, where officials estimate that “the number of terrorists has been winnowed down to a few hundred, their major leaders are dead and movements are confined primarily to the dense southern jungles on the islands of Jolo and Basilan.” The Stars & Stripes article also provides a good overview of how the Philippines served as an important hub for jihadists in the 1990s.