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In Interview In Issue 10 Of ISIS Magazine 'Rumiyah,' ISIS Philippines Leader Vows To Keep Fighting 'Crusaders'

On June 7, 2017, the Islamic State (ISIS) released the 10th issue of its monthly magazine Rumiyah, which is dedicated to East Asia.[1] The cover article features an interview with the leader of ISIS in East Asia (i.e. Ithe Philippines), Asylon Hafilon aka Abu Abdallah Al-Muhajir. In the interview, Hafilon touts the successes of ISIS fighters on the Philippines front,[2] invites Muslims from all over the world to join his group of fighters, and tells ISIS's enemies that the group will keep fighting the "Crusaders" until, he says, "Allah shakes by them [i.e. through the fighters] the thrones of Washington and Moscow."

Following ISIS's successful takeover of the city of Marawi, in the Lanao province of Mindanao Island, the Philippines,[3] and in the context of ISIS's losses in Syria and Iraq, the organization's gains in the Philippines are taking the forefront of ISIS media and recruitment efforts, in order to show that the fight is still global and will continue despite setbacks on the ground.

Asylon Hafilon aka Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, Emir of ISIS in East Asia

The five-page interview covers the history and situation of the jihad in East Asia, discusses ISIS's relationship to other rebel groups in the area, and, finally, encourages Muslims and threatens the government of the Philippines and its Western allies.

The following is a review of the interview with Abu Abdallah, whom the magazine presents as the leader of "the soldiers of the caliphate in East Asia" – indicating that his authority within ISIS likely goes beyond the Philippines, most importantly to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Cover of Issue 10 of Rumiyah and of the editorial showing Philippines President Duterte.

On The Birth of ISIS in East Asia

According to Abu Abdallah, ISIS in East Asia was born of the unification of several jihadi groups, among them the group Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings of Westerners.[4] All the groups share a long-standing desire to form an Islamic state in the Muslim areas of Southeast Asia by means of armed jihad.[5] Abu Abdallah places the current fight in the context of the ongoing conflict in the region that has pitched Muslims against Christians and Buddhists for over five centuries. He cites "the spread of Christianity on a large scale in this region under the sword of Crusader colonialism" as the reason for the uprising by a small "vanguard" of Muslims who took up arms and are fighting to this day, and who have now pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, whom they recognize as the leader of all Muslims.

Abu Abdallah describes how all the jihadi fighters united under the ISIS banner,[6] stating that a group of them pledged allegiance to ISIS a few days after the caliphate was declared in June 2014.[7] He adds that the formal publication of their pledge to ISIS has done "much good for the jihad in the entire archipelago."[8]

Execution of Christians by ISIS in Marawi.

On The State Of Jihad In The Region

Abu Abdallah reports that the situation for his organization  in the southern Philippines is improving, and that it hasacquired recruits and weapons, including foreign fighters from "various countries in the region of East Asia, and even from regions outside of East Asia." He describes at length several successful battles and skirmishes against Philippines forces.

An important part of the interview is dedicated to criticizing the separatist movement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has engaged in a peaceful process of autonomy for Muslim regions of Philippines. Abu Abdallah accuses the "crusader government" of Philippines of taking advantage of the divisions among the Muslims and manipulating the "submissive faction" against the "pro-war faction." He calls the MILF a follower of the "apostate [Muslim] Brotherhood" and explains that the shortcomings of the MILF in its deals with the government have boosted ISIS recruitment among the Filipino youth.

ISIS fighters in Marawi.

A Message To The 'Crusaders'

Abu Abdallah tags Russia and the U.S. as the global leaders of the "Crusaders," warning that although they are not directly involved in the fight, "they lie in wait and monitor the news of the mujahidin here." He addresses a message to ISIS's enemies in East Asia stating: "the soldiers of the Islamic State in East Asia will continue upon their path until Allah shakes by them the thrones of Washington and Moscow" and adds, "And the dominion of our Muslim people will reach everything which night and day reaches. [...] So either you submit or pay the jizya [poll tax] willingly while subdued, or you prepare yourselves, for we will raid you."

Group photo of ISIS fighters in Philippines

Message To Muslims Worldwide: We Welcome Fighters From All Over

Finally, Abu Abdallah addresses a message to Muslims worldwide, calling on them to make hijra (immigrate) to ISIS in the Philippines to fight in their ranks. He concludes the interview by stating that the Islamic State is established and the caliphate is reborn and must be supported by any means. He calls upon Muslims to "teach the Crusaders that zero hour has arrived, and that the time has come to take them to account for their association of false gods with Allah, their killing and expelling of the oppressed Muslims around the world, and their violation of their honor and wealth. And inform them that our meeting will be at Washington and Moscow."

 

[6] See MEMRI JTTM report Group Of Jihadis In The Philippines Swear Fealty To ISIS, January 3, 2016.