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Saudi, Yemeni Nationals Among Terrorists Killed in Marawi; Is ISIS Establishing Asian Hub in Philippines?

Terrorists from other countries were among those killed by military forces in Marawi City, according to the Philippine government.
A view of the Maute group stronghold with an ISIS flag in Marawi City in southern Philippines. May 30, 2017 07:36am EDT Reuters/Erik De Castro

Terrorists from other countries were among those killed by military forces in Marawi City, according to the Philippine government.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Jihadists from other countries joined the ISIS-linked Maute group that laid siege in the southern Philippines city. The military has identified two Malaysians, two Indonesians, two Saudis, a Yemeni and a Chechen, ABS-CBN News reported.

Another report said authorities identified militants from Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and India.

"The report we got from the civilians from Marawi is they saw a lot of foreign-looking fighters," Lorenzana said. "There could be more that we killed that we have not identified."

There were an estimated 400 to 500 Jihadist fighters who descended upon Marawi on Tuesday last week, and about 40 of these were foreign nationals, a Philippines intelligence source told ABC-CBN News.  

The terrorists from other countries could have entered the Philippines through its southern backdoor, according to Lorenzana. So far, 95 terrorists have been killed in the ongoing gunfight with the military.  

Experts said the presence of foreign Islamic extremist fighters in the country could be a sign that ISIS could be establishing a hub in Asia as its foothold in Syria and Iraq weakens.

"IS is shrinking in Iraq and Syria, and decentralizing in parts of Asia and the Middle East," Rohan Gunaratna, security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said according to Reuters. "One of the areas where it is expanding is Southeast Asia and the Philippines is the center of gravity."

Gunaratna's theory appears to be backed by information provided by Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert based in Jakarta, about an exchange of messages between ISIS supporters in a Telegram chatroom.

One of them reportedly mentioned a door opening in the Philippines.

"Hijrah to the Philippines. Door is opening," the user said, using the Arabic word for 'pilgrimage.'

Another one, who claimed he was in Marawi, boasted about how he saw the soldiers "run like pigs." He also saw "their filthy blood mix with the dead bodies of their comrades."

Solicitor General Jose Calida said the Islamic extremists, in the midst of continuing gunfight with the soldiers, also targets Christians and Muslims whom they consider as infidels.

"What is worrisome is that the ISIS has radicalized a number of Filipino Muslim youth," he added.

The Marawi attack prompted Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law over the entire island of Mindanao where the city is located.

As of yesterday, the army announced it has retaken 90 percent of the city.

Tags : Marawi, Marawi attack, ISIS, ISIS Philippines attack, Marawi ISIS, Marawi ISIS attack, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, Mindanao martial law, Syria, Iraq, terrorism, terrorist attacks, Maute, Abu Sayyaf