Jihadists are shown undergoing basic weapons training
Fighters alleging to be the “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Philippines” have released a short video showing a training camp somewhere in the Southeast Asian country. It is unclear which group the fighters belong to, but several Philippines-based jihadist groups have pledged allegiance or support to the Islamic State.
The video begins with a masked figure speaking to the camera about making “hajj [pilgrimage] to the Caliphate” before switching to showing the rudimentary training camp. Fighters are then shown participating in running obstacles and partaking in other physical training. Additionally, the jihadists are then shown undergoing basic weapons training with what appears to be a US-made assault rifle. Many of the fighters seen in the video appear to be young, but almost all have their faces covered.
Although the video does not include a date, it appears to have been uploaded recently and posted to social media. A copy of the video was recently obtained by The Long War Journal.
The identity of the specific group the fighters shown in the video belong to is uncertain. The jihadist groups Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and a group calling itself Ansar al Khilafah in the Philippines have all either pledged allegiance or expressed support for the Islamic State in the past. Traditionally, ASG has had ties to al Qaeda. In June 2014, a master ASG bomb maker, who was thought to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan, turned up in the Philippines. The operative, Abdul Basit Usman, was wanted by the US for his involvement in multiple bombings in the Philippines and also had ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda-linked group in Southeast Asia. Usman was reportedly killed earlier this year in a shootout with the Filipino military, however, he was also reported dead months later after a shootout with another jihadist outfit.
ASG was funded and financed by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-laws, according to Khaddafy Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, before he was killed in 2006. Khalifa, an al Qaeda financier and facilitator, was killed by US special operations forces in Madagascar in 2006. But ASG distanced itself from al Qaeda when, last July, Isnilon Hapilon, a top leader in the group, swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State. However, its current relationship with the Islamic State is unclear. In recent kidnappings by ASG, the group did not specify that it was holding the Western hostages in the name of the Islamic State.
BIFF is a splinter group of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which broke away in 2008 over disagreements with MILF’s leadership. Last August, a spokesman for BIFF told Agence France-Presse that “We have an alliance with ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” AFP also said that a video was uploaded to YouTube showing the leadership of BIFF reading a statement of support for the Islamic State. However, it is uncertain if BIFF made an explicit oath of allegiance rather than just expressing support.
The group calling itself Ansar al Khilafah in the Philippines is perhaps the most definitive Islamic State-linked group in the list. Last August, the group first emerged in the Philippines by explicitly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in a video released on YouTube. In April, the group released another video to threaten the Filipino government and American soldiers in the Philippines. According to the SITE Intelligence Group, a spokesman for Ansar al Khilafah threatened to “deploy suicide bombers” in the country and that the group would make the Philippines a “graveyard for American soldiers.”
Photos from the training camp video: