Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf rebels are seen in the Philippines in this video grab made available in 2009Reuters

Prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni, who was injured in an assassination attempt by gunmen in the southern Filipinno city of Zamboanga, was likely targeted by Islamic State (IS) sympathisers. The Islamic State called for 'lone wolf attacks' against Qarni and other Saudi clerics in its most recent issue of the propaganda magazine Dabiq.

The religious figures, popular throughout the Muslim word, have publicly denounced the terror group. Reuters reported that these state-sanctioned Islamic preachers were referred to as "the imams of disbelief".

Qarni has been outspoken in his condemnation of Isis, which controls territory in Iraq, Libya and Syria as well as drawing scores of extremist groups to its cause around the world. Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2014.

Zamboanga
Filipino government soldiers patrol Zamboanga city in the ground war against Islamist militant group Abu SayyafReuters

Police, who are probing the assassination attempt, told IBTimes both Qarni and another member of his entourage, an official from the Saudi Embassy in Manila, were receiving treatment in the Filipino capital. The Saudi cleric sustained three gunshot wounds to his chest, arm and body as he left a lecture he was giving at Western Mindanao State University.

The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was shot dead by Qarni's security. Two other assailants are still believed to be at large.

While Qarni was banned from preaching in Saudi Arabia in 1990, his value to the Saudi government was shown after it sent a private plane to transport him to Manila.

Victor Okonek being subjected to a mock execution
Stefan Viktor Okonek was one of two German hostages released after a ransom paymentTwitter/@JulietSAlipala

On the same day as the assassination attempt, the Philippines has continued its ground war against Abu Sayyaf, killing at least 12 militants, with five soldiers killed 200km (120 miles) northeast of Zamboanga.

The separatist group, which has links to both IS and al-Qaeda has been fighting an insurgency against Manila and its backers in the US for decades.

They are currently holding two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Fillipino, who were abducted in September. Abu Sayyaf has demanded more than $60 million (£40m) for the release of the three foreigner hostages. In October 2014, the group claimed to have been paid 250m peso (£3.4m) for the release of two German hostages who were held for seven months.