LANAO DEL SUR – The recent deadly bombings in the Philippine capital claimed by the Islamic State were believed carried out by a new jihadist faction called “Al-Luzoni” whose members included Muslim converts, government intelligence sources said on Wednesday.
It said the attacks in Quiapo in April 28 and May 5 that killed and injured at least 22 people were allegedly test missions. The faction is being led by Yousuf Macoto Al-Luzoni, who is also behind the Filipino IS propaganda “Perlas ng mga Mujahideen” and the group is primary suspect in the failed November 28 U.S. Embassy bombing.
The twin attacks were carried out with the support and guidance of some members of the most significant IS founders in the country - the Ghuraba of the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM). Some of its members had been arrested last December by Philippine authorities following the failed attack.
Other members who were being hunted down by authorities in Luzon managed to elude arrest and escaped to Mindanao, but not after detonating improvised explosives at a festival in the town of Hilongos in Leyte province on December 28 last year that left dozens of civilians injured.
Other jihadist groups in southern Philippines also underwent similar bombing missions before they have been recognized by the Islamic State. Among them were the IS Ranao, also known as the Maute Group, in Lanao del Sur province; the Sarangani-based Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines; the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, and the Harakatul Islamiyah or Abu Sayyaf, including small groups in Western Mindanao – all of them have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the Philippines.
Philippine authorities tagged members of the Maute Group - led brothers Omar and Abdullah - as members of the Ghuraba.
The KIM, which means Islamic caliphate movement, serves as the umbrella organization of all local IS-linked groups in the country being led by Humam Abdulnajid. He and other Ghuraba members also appeared in an IS propaganda video released on the Internet recently. It video showed the groups’ major operations in the Lanao del Sur, including the battles in Butig town and the rescue of their members in at the provincial jail last year.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency reported that the group is responsible for the bombings in Manila, saying the latest explosion targeted Shia Rafidah in the capital city.
This was also reported by the non-governmental counterterrorism organization, SITE Intelligence Group, and said: “The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency reported the killing and wounding of 11 Shi’ites with an explosive device in downtown Manila, Philippines,” referring to the April bombing that police tried to downplay the attacks and said these were “gang-related”.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly warned that the influence of the Islamic State in the Philippines is the country’s biggest security threat. (Moh Saaduddin)
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