The global influence of Islamic State (ISIS) was on display Friday, as officials in the Philippines revealed a fierce gun battle took place the night before between the army and a criminal gang that pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Eight members of the gang were killed in the shootout in Palimbang, a town located in the south where most of the Muslim minority in the Catholic country lives, reports AFP. Five black flags similar to those of ISIS were found after the clash.
The gang is named Ansar al-Khalifa, a group that declared support for ISIS in a video online last year, according to regional military spokesperson Maj. Filemon Tan. He noted there is no evidence that the group or others like it are receiving support from ISIS.
Reports indicate one of the eight killed was from Indonesia, and Tan noted that around 40 others managed to flee after the gunfight.
Aside from the gang and other smaller groups, there is a larger organization that has sworn allegiance to ISIS in the Philippines.
That group, Abu Sayyaf, is listed as a terrorist organization by the US, and is holding at least four foreign nationals hostage while demanding millions of dollars for ransom.
The southern Philippines has seen unrest in recent years, with gangs frequently kidnapping people aside from the activities of Muslim and communist separatist movements.
National military spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said Ansar al-Khalifa has no proven links to ISIS. He added that it has extorted from businessmen and stolen cattle before.
"This group is trying to ride on the popularity of the ISIS, but they're not really ISIS. We view them as mere criminal gangs," the colonel told AFP.