Southeast Asian militants also have little battle experience with the Islamic State. The nearly 1,600 South and Southeast Asian foreign fighters who traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the group would have made up just 5 percent of the total number of Islamic State foreign fighters, estimated to be pushing 30,000, according to a report by The Soufan Center, an international consulting company.
And yet, despite receiving far less attention than other Islamic State franchise groups — including in Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, and Afghanistan — Islamist militants who have espoused an affinity for the Islamic State were able to dramatically seize Marawi, the largest city in Mindanao’s autonomous region, with a population of 200,000. And even though militants in the Philippines never received official Islamic State wilayat status, there are strong ideological links that have even extended to something more tangible. The combined counteroffensive against the militants failed to recapture Marawi from a loose coalition of these Islamic State-linked factions, including the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Maute group, whose effectiveness was bolstered by Islamic State material support. The core group reportedly sent nearly $2 million to militants in the Philippines to help the group wage battle. The Philippines fits the Islamic State’s template of seeking to instigate and latch onto existing ethnic conflicts with sectarian issues, with Muslims from the south competing with Christians from the predominantly Catholic north.