Unlike the earlier report claiming there are at least 100 foreign jihadists who entered the Philippines, the military said on November 20 that it was monitoring 8 suspects in Mindanao.
On November 19, the Philippine Star said that their sources claimed that at least 100 foreign jihadists who were trained by the Islamic State (IS) in Indonesia entered the country by batches and went to Mindanao to support their fellow terrorists in Marawi before the siege ended.
The newspaper said that their sources further claimed that some of the jihadists did reach Marawi, but most did not due to the tight security measures implemented by the Philippine military around the besieged city.
But the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig Gen. Restituto Padilla denied the presence of such huge number of jihadists in the country.
“Itong balita po tungkol sa 100 terorista na naririto ngayon, ito po ay bagay na hindi namin hawak… Ang monitoring po natin ay very much less than this number,” Padilla told DZMM.
“Mga 8 pa lang po ang ating mino-monitor kaya hindi po natin batid saan nanggagaling itong 100 na bilang na ito,” he added.
Padilla said all 8 jihadists are bomb experts who worked with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
The Philippine Star’s report, however, is being verified by the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, according to its executive director, Rommel Banlaoi.
He told DZMM in a separate interview: “Kung saka-sakaling mayroon pong basehan ang report na iyan, hindi po nakapagtataka dahil bago pa man pumutok ang Marawi City siege, idineklara na ng ISIS ang Pilipinas bilang new land of jihad.”
Reuters earlier reported about how a Malaysian leader of the terrorist group ISIS told jihadists in June to “go to the Philippines.”
Some foreign-looking individuals were also among the 900 extremists who were killed in the Marawi war, said security officials.