The Indonesian defense chief claims about 1,200 Takfiri Daesh elements are currently operating in the Philippines, which is in the middle of a large offensive against militants tied to the terror group in the south.
Ryamizard Ryacudu, who was speaking at an international security summit in Singapore on Sunday, described the Daesh-affiliated militants as “killing machines” and called for full-scale regional cooperation against the notorious terror outfit.
“I was advised last night, 1,200 ISIL in the Philippines, around 40 from Indonesia,” Ryacudu said. “How can we tackle these foreign fighters? We have to be comprehensive.”
“We have to find… complete ways but we must exercise caution, they are killing machines. Their aim is to kill other people so that’s why it’s our responsibility that we have common understanding, consensus and common proceedings on how to fight these foreign fighters,” the Indonesian defense minister added.
The comments come as a bloody standoff is underway between Philippine troops and the militants fighting under the Daesh flag in the country’s troubled south.
On May 23, gunmen rampaged through the mostly Muslim-populated city of Marawi in response to an effort by government forces to arrest their leader, Isnilon Hapilon. The city has been under a siege for over two weeks and about 2,000 civilians are still trapped in the militant-held areas.
However, Philippine Defense Undersecretary Ricardo David, who was speaking at the same forum, said the figure provided by the Indonesian minister was new to him.
“I really don’t know, my figure is about 250-400, a lot less,” he told reporters, adding that, “Our intelligence estimates that there are about 40 foreigners that fought in the Marawi incident.”
David said most foreign militants had come to the Philippines through the Sulu area, which is close to Malaysia and Indonesia, and where local terrorists are also based.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law across the southern third of the county to prevent collateral damage. The Daesh militants have forced 200,000 Marawi residents to flee.
The Maute group is one of the less than a dozen new armed groups that have pledged allegiance to Daesh and formed a loose alliance in the southern Philippines.
It has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in the southern Davao City —Duterte’s hometown — last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.