Multiple terror groups based in the Philippines have reportedly indicated they may merge to form an extension of Islamic State, the first of its kind in the region.
The four groups, who operate in the southern part of the country, declared their support for the Syria and Iraq-based terror group in a video posted to a dark-web jihad website on January 4.
Some terror experts believe it indicates they may merge to form the first satellite extension of IS in southeast Asia.
The video, which has now been removed, showed four militant battalions vowing to stand with IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a self-proclaimed caliph, according to News Corp.
Those pledging allegiance to Islamic State included the Abu Sayyaf group, which has operated in the Philippines for more than 40 years. Their goals and motivations are described as moving between criminal and ideological.
Other groups based at the islands of Sulu and Basilan also featured.
It was believed to be filmed at a training camp in Basilan, Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost island of the Philippines.
International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research head Rohan Gunaratna said any merger of Philippine groups would “present an unprecedented challenge to the Manila government”.
“In the Philippines, the next step ISIS is likely to take is the proclamation of Mindanao,” he told Rappler, describing the potential for the island to be declared an IS province.
“With the proclamation of an ISIS branch in the southern Philippines, the ISIS influence and ideology is likely to grow, affecting both the southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia.
“ISIS is likely to create a safe haven in Basilan and mount operations from the Sulu archipelago into both the Philippines and Malaysia.”