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fight against ISIS

ISIS wants militants to avoid Syria and Iraq, instead focusing on the Philippines

The Islamic State, after losing ground in Syria and Iraq, is switching its attention to a different battleground: the Philippines.

ISIS's media arm has released a seven-minute video in English that uses militants already in the southern part of the Philippines to encourage would-be fighters to join them as they fight government troops near Marawi, a city of 200,000 people. Since May, Philippine soldiers have been trying to get ISIS-linked militants out of the city, and more than 60 troops have been killed and 200 wounded in clashes. In the video, a fighter calls on Muslims, specifically those in Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, to come to the Philippines to help the fight in Marawi, joining militants from three ISIS-aligned groups: Maute, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Abu Sayyaf, a onetime offshoot of al Qaeda.

Asia is ISIS's new focus, U.S. intelligence officials and private analysts told NBC News, partly because Muslim insurgents have been active in the Philippines' southern islands for decades now, and ISIS sees it as the best place for them to get support and launch attacks. "ISIS wants to be seen as global and the Philippines provides them with an opportunity," a U.S. official said. While intelligence officials were afraid that ISIS losses in the Middle East would translate to a rush of militants returning to their homelands, there has yet to be a mass exodus, officials told NBC News, and it's believed they will likely stay in Iraq and Syria and fight as insurgents.