Islamic State claims foreign fighter bombed military checkpoint in the Philippines

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in Lamitan, a city in the Basilan province of the Philippines. At least 10 people were killed and several others wounded in the blast, according to initial press reports. The so-called caliphate has posted a picture of the bomber, who is identified as Abu Kathir al-Maghrebi (seen above).

The suicide bomber’s alias indicates that he is from the Maghreb and likely a Moroccan. Indeed, pro-Islamic State Telegram channels said the “martyr” was from Morocco.

According to CNN, military officials blamed the blast on the Abu Sayyaf Group. But this is not inconsistent with the Islamic State’s claim, as the Abu Sayyaf Group’s leaders and several of the group’s “battalions” previously swore their fealty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Abu Sayyaf Group, which was once part of al Qaeda’s international network, helped the Islamic State grow in Southeast Asia, providing the self-declared caliphate with access to its local networks.

However, the suicide bomber responsible for today’s blast wasn’t a local — at least not according to the Islamic State’s media team.

The United Nations previously warned that the Philippines had become a destination for foreign fighters after the Islamic State captured the city of Marawi in May 2017. The takeover of Marawi was orchestrated by the so-called Maute Group, another local jihadist outfit that fueled the so-called caliphate’s expansion in the region. Despite losing control of Marawi several months later, the Islamic State remained a threat in the Philippines.

Marawi “emerged as a major symbolic and propaganda victory for” the Islamic State, the UN warned in a reported published this past January. The group’s “affiliates” had “succeeded in occupying an urban area, and, according to Member States, the [Islamic State] threat to the Philippines persists despite the end of the siege and the deaths of senior leaders.”

Citing its Member States, the UN warned that the siege of Marawi “could have long-term repercussions for the region and serve as inspiration for other militants,” as the “publicity value of the siege” was significant. The UN added that the siege had fueled “calls for foreign terrorist fighters to migrate to the region.”

The bombing earlier today highlights the fact that the Islamic State retains an operation arm in the Philippines in spite of significant leadership losses and other setbacks. The organization may well retain some significant connections to the Islamic State’s mothership in Iraq and Syria as well. In April, for example, the US Treasury Department sanctioned a female facilitator for the group named Myrna Mabanza. According to Treasury, Mabanza served as an “intermediary” between jihadists in the Philippines and their comrades in Syria. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury sanctions ISIS facilitator based in the Philippines.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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3 Comments

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I think this is the first suicide attack in the Philippines. It seems local Filipino Muslims don’t like suicide attacks and the leadership decided to use a foreigner instead

  • Dennis says:

    What exactly did the u.n. think should be done? Do they really believe that the local government should have done nothing, so that the terrorists wouldn’t have “publicity value”? The level of that stupidity is mind boggling! The rest of those foreign idiots would have been on the way no matter what. The u.n. is a defunct organization, run by countries who don’t pay crap. We should shutter the building in N.Y.C. and send them all packing to Europe, where socialists and liberals abound. Good riddance!

  • TF Green says:

    Just was speaking to a former Special Mission Unit operator (from one of the newer CT units covered under OGA/secret squirrel Title 50 gigs, basically a perfectly honed top tier group of joint Philippine SOF CT units–their own SMUs like our own infamous ST6/DEVGRU called the SRG—and our own CT units), I hear that the gloves “are coming off despite their Presidential smear campaigns against opponents, mass murders perpetrated by inefficent and improperly trained local LE orgs on his personal ‘drug wars’, etc…but now? Our guys are stoked! They have a full on ‘weapons free’ declaration when Marawi’s post-I.S now shows they could use the extra strap-hangers from our PATs or Provincial Advisory Teams” (what I think this old salt and long time family friend meant to say, kinda without outright saying it due to my and his beliefs strongly rooted in keeping OPSEC even in casual and private one on one conversations, hence why I don’t say when, who, where, but let’s say FINALLY OUR FILIPINO ALLIES are “kinda gettin’ the f–kin’ hint that this ain’t AS’ (Abu Sayyaf) usual bullsh-t!! This is in EVERY little corner, no matter how high profile like Manila, or Mindanao’s big city operations, or if it’s in the sewers of villages on the outlands of said areas of supposedly ‘covered AORs’ in all the different regional fwd commands in the Philippine SOF, and that’s what my former CO said is the necessary ‘shot in the arm’ these poorly trained lower end SF units needed, tragically…But how tragic is it?” he kept repeating. As I listened more, again keeping OPSEC here in this post, lets say that he bottom-lined the whole report of this ITG resurgence in their country as “basically, a much needed ‘green light’ to start joining LRR and more highly trained units in hitting the I.S and their affiliated AS/NPA pals” (NPA is a Communist ragtag rebels, really, but unbeknownst to most, an actual huge logistical assist for all VEOs), and then he sipped his drink, pulls out his Iphone and shows me personal videos sent by friends from Army ODAs (Green Beret teams on the ground there) helping doing their FID (advising to the local LE and mil units’ so they can “train the trainers”) mission they’ve always specialized in….and the videos blew my mind!! It’s not just Abu Sayyaf or the “Maute” morons, it’s now a free-for-all against all
    different-yet-similar insurgents and paramilitary orgs, and ALSO for all the dozens of diff gangs of thugs in the larger TCO picture in the country who just want the nation to fail in their efforts to be Wersternized in their training regimen for ACTUALLY higher impacting kinetic joint task units we’ve helped them put together…I’ve worked in priv sec contracting on the tactical level and let me say that I’m so proud we finally are allowing REAL trigger pullers to STAY downrange (as opposed to opting out because they are tired of doing exchange program/joint training excercises that last for what must feel like an eternity and yield ZERO RESULTS…
    He said lastly something that made me smile…”Hey bro, you tell any f–kin’ frog (SEAL) out there, or hell, even a old timer like me on some ODA, let alone some greenhorn SF guy he can technically go ahead and, through proper channels, very shortly just go ahead and eventually jump right on Direct Action Teams speeding alongside Langley-backed JSOC campaigns against Islamic State affiliates?? Yeah, that’s how you get that X-Ray recruitment at the Army offices up!! HAHAH!! That now, if you get the Southeast Asia teams which, before used to suck I’m sure…I wouldn’t know I had Latin America back in those days…but you tell ’em it’s ON??.. and oh btw, you’ll get to actually do door kicking at the op tempo they had back during the infamous raids they used to run out of MSS Fernandez back in Baghdad during OIF1/2? Oh man….Our boys finally allowed that level of internally approved latitude will finally be allowed to do the tactical problem solving THEIR WAY and FINALLY ALL THE WHILE, they REALLY train their cohorts to do the job RIGHT this time!”
    Interesting guy, interesting perspectives. He’s got an Ebook on the way, but I don’t know how much I can say about that either…I’m sure people that follow these stories like the one above will know it when they see it. It kinda covers the more “global” side of the ISIS fight when it comes to Special Mission guys and the programs in place to allow them to finally put a dent in other related Islamic Terror Groups (ITGs) in other flashpoints you’re seeing in the world today!
    We both read this article again together yesterday and just laughed about how these a-holes in AQ and IS have no clue how bad things are gonna get if Trunp’s SecDef and Agency heads get their way during a second term…I’m not pro nor anti Trump, just saying. He’s not gonna micromanage JSOC, and that was a huge plus to Bush Jr with me being non-political and very independent as a voter, as even Rumsfeld was kinda “blehhh” without his suboordinates telling him who to put in the priority target packages.

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