AFP: Small 'Turaife group' capable of launching terror attacks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 15) — The potential successor of a slain Abu Sayyaf leader is capable of launching terror attacks, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

After the death of Abu Sayyaf-Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon in October towards the end of the Marawi siege, a certain Abu Turaife is believed to have been chosen as the next emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, the military said.

Hapilon, along with the two Maute brothers, led hundreds of gunmen in a five-month battle against government forces in Marawi City.

The military has identified 22 members of the Turaife group, AFP Spokesperson Edgar Arevalo said in a Malacañang press briefing.

Arevalo said Turaife's group should not be underestimated.

"Hindi naman po kailangang maging marami para magpasabog ka ng isang --- isang vital installation or vital institution, o mga lugar kung saan maraming tao. Hindi naman po natin kailangang maging napakarami," Arevalo said.

[Translation: "You do not have to have a lot of members to bomb a vital installation or institution, or public places. You do not have to be too many."]

"The point we're saying is, they are capable," he added.

The threat posed by the Turaife group was among the reasons cited by President Rodrigo Duterte in his request for Congress to allow the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.

Duterte in his letter said the group is "planning to conduct bombings, notably targeting the Cotabato area."

Congress approved Duterte's request on Tuesday which means military rule will remain in effect in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.

Read more: Congress grants Duterte request to extend Mindanao martial law until end of 2018

Terrorist recruitment continues

The Armed Forces said Turaife is leading recruitment efforts of the ISIS-inspired Maute group that was defeated in Marawi.

The terrorists are recruiting potential members in municipalities surrounding Marawi, based on reports from residents.

"Nag-i-intensify pa rin sila in the sense na hindi sila humihinto sa kanilang ginagawang recruitment at patuloy na pagkumbinsi na sumali sa kanilang hanay," Arevalo said.

[Translation: "They do not stop in their recruitment efforts and they continue to convince people to join their force."]

"And of course may mga offer pa rin sila ng (they have offers of) financial remuneration," he added.

Arevalo refused to divulge the amount terrorists are offering to their recruits, saying the amounts vary.

Task Force Bangon Marawi chairman Eduardo del Rosario earlier revealed intelligence reports that the remaining members of the Maute group are conducting "massive recruitment," offering as high as P100, 000 to each recruit.

Arevalo said the terrorists usually convince their relatives and some children.

He said the AFP considers requesting Facebook to delete posts of terrorist recruitment videos as the government continues to work on educating the youth against extremism.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.