By SAMMY JULIAN
Manila News Bureau Chief
MANILA — Reports that young Filipinos were training with the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iran were a “bad mistake” and “an error in referral of the name of the country,” a top Iranian diplomat in the Philippines said.
“We categorically deny the false accusation,” Iranian Ambassador to Manila Ali Asghar Mohammadi said in a statement.
Mohammadi also stressed that the firm position of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the conflicts in Iraq and Syria was “based on strong condemnation of the terrorist activities in the region.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its principled foreign policy and established practices, would stand to support peace and stability in the region and will continue to challenge terrorism in all its forms,” he said.
Former president Fidel Ramos said in a television interview recently that about 100 young Filipinos were training with the terrorist group.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City also claimed that some residents of the city were recruited by ISIS and have left the country either for Iraq or Syria in July.
ON CLOSE WATCH
Meanwhile, the United States said it is watching Mindanao “very closely” as one of the possible ISIS recruitment areas in Southeast Asia, along with Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We’ve taken note of the public announcements that have been made by some of the groups in southern Philippines about ISIS,” US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg told reporters. “But I don’t want to say that we have no information to indicate that there have been fighters going to the Middle East.”
“What I’m saying, we and the Philippine government are watching it very closely and it concerns us wherever it may be taking place,” Goldberg said.
However, he stressed that the US is not focused solely on the Philippines as having such a “scenario.” “It’s everywhere including in the West,” said Goldberg. “We’re concerned about the idea of ISIS trying to recruit foreign fighters all around the world.”
“We know that there are foreign fighters who have gone to the Middle East from the United States from the United Kingdom,” he said, “from all over Europe, Australia, and other places and so we’re concerned about it wherever it may happen.”
He said the possibility that there are fighters from other parts of the world that will go to the Middle East in support of ISIS and then return to their home countries is a global concern.
“It’s something that we all need to be concerned about, and the United States is leading an international coalition to deal with the issue of ISIS,” Goldberg said.
Several organizations of Muslim Filipinos have publicly proclaimed their allegiance to ISIS and its founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
A group of Muslims, Ansar Dawlah Fi Filibbin, posted a video showing several men performing a Bay-ah or pledge of allegiance to Baghdadi.
Muslim detainees allegedly at the Special Intensive Care Area of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, were also seen in a video performing the same Bay-ah./PN