Ambassador denies Filipino jihadists training with ISIS in Iran
MANILA, Philippines—Iran’s top diplomat in the Philippines has sent the Department of Foreign Affairs a note verbale denying press reports 100 Filipinos had traveled to Iran to train under the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We want to make it clear: Based on my analysis and the information (I got), that is impossible,” Iranian Ambassador to the Philippines Ali Asghar Mohammadi told reporters at his residence in Makati.
Earlier news reports supposedly based on a confidential Department of Foreign Affairs memo saying Iran had a training facility for Filipino jihadists prior to deployment in Iraq to join the Sunni-dominated ISIS.
Mohammadi explained that Iran has been fighting against ISIS. “We have been defenders of the establishment (Syrian government). How come we are training groups to be sent to fight against the Syrian government?” he said with a laugh.
“We categorically deny reports like that, totally false and unacceptable,” the diplomat said.
Mohammadi said he sent a note verbale to Philippine officials but has yet to receive a formal response.
He, however, said that he had met with officials from the Philippine foreign office who told him that the report was “ridiculous.”
The Iranian ambassador lamented that the report had tarnished Iran’s image in the country.
“For us, public opinion is important. These reports destroyed all our efforts in the past,” Mohammadi said.
Mohammadi suggested, however, that the Philippine authorities take the report about ISIS recruiting members in the Philippines seriously.
“The government has to verify this report first. But there is a high possibility that these groups recruit internationally,” he said.
He said Southeast Asian countries could be targets for ISIS’ recruitment since these are accessible to them through groups espousing Islamic fundamentalism.
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