Philippine soldiers participate in a raid in Marawi city. (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – It is feared that southern Philippines is fast becoming a centre of extremist groups in Asia, as evidenced by dozens of foreign gunmen joining hands with local IS militants to fight security forces in the region last week.

According to intelligence sources of the Philippines, among 400-500 gunmen that occupied Marawi city in Mindanao island since May 23, some 40 came from other countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India and Morocco. Eight out of 33 militants killed during the first four days of the Marawi clash were foreigners. 

Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities believed that among 38 Indonesian nationals came to southern Philippines to join IS-related groups, about 22 gunmen were fighting in Marawi.

Rohan Gunaratna, a security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies noted that Southeast Asia is one of the areas where the IS is expanding and the Philippines is the centre of the intention.

The violence in Marawi city erupted on May 23 as security forces raided on the suspected house of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf group and leader of a branch of self-claimed Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. The US lists Hapilon as one of the world's most dangerous terrorists and has offered bounty of five million USD for his capture.

On May 30, the Philippine Government announced that it was about to re-gain control of the city, urging the gunmen to surrender.-VNA