Posts Tagged ‘Jihadists’

Twitter: 1 million accounts suspended for ‘terrorism promotion’

April 5, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Twitter says more than one million accounts have been suspended since 2015 for “promotion of terrorism”

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Twitter said Thursday it has suspended over one million accounts for “promotion of terrorism” since 2015, claiming its efforts have begun to make the platform “an undesirable place” to call for violence.In its latest transparency report, Twitter said it suspended 274,460 accounts between July and December 2017 “for violations related to the promotion of terrorism.”

The figure is down 8.4 percent from the previous reporting period and is the second consecutive decline, a Twitter statement said.

“We continue to see the positive, significant impact of years of hard work making our site an undesirable place for those seeking to promote terrorism, resulting in this type of activity increasingly shifting away from Twitter,” said the statement from the messaging platform’s public policy team.

Twitter has faced pressure from governments around the world to crack down on jihadists and others calling for violent attacks, while at the same time maintaining an open platform for free speech.

In the latest six-month reporting period, Twitter said 93 percent of the suspended accounts were “flagged by internal, proprietary tools,” and that 74 percent were cut off before their first tweet.

It said government reports of violations related to the promotion of terrorism represent less than 0.2 percent of all suspensions in the period.

Twitter also used the report to express concerns about what it called “legal threats to freedom of expression” online in countries around the world.

“With the passage of new legislation and ongoing regulatory discussions taking place around the world about the future of public discourse online, we are seeing a potential chilling effect with regards to freedom of expression,” the report said.

It cited a Human Rights Watch report suggesting that “governments around the world (are) increasingly look to restrict online speech by forcing social media companies to act as their censors.”

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Nigeria’s Buhari meets with Dapchi girls — Boko Haram expected to strike Again — Terrorism and Corruption in Africa

March 23, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Ola Awoniyi | A total of 113 children were seized from the school in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria on February 19, all but two of them girls

ABUJA (AFP) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari received the released Dapchi girls on Friday in a meeting clouded by the absence of a Christian student still held by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam.”We entered into negotiation solely to make sure that no single girl was hurt. This strategy paid off as the girls are being released without any incident,” Buhari said to reporters at the presidential villa in Abuja.

The girls, dressed in brightly coloured hijabs, enthusiastically sang the national anthem before posing for photos with Buhari outside in a garden.

Describing the release of the 107 youngsters — 105 schoolgirls and two young boys — as a “cheery and hearty” development, Buhari pledged to recover “every abducted citizen in Nigeria.”

“While parents of the Dapchi girls rejoice because of the reunion with their children, I want to appeal to the Chibok community never to lose hope or despair. We are determined as never before to bring back our remaining Chibok daughters,” he said.

The latest mass kidnapping from the town of Dapchi was an embarrassment for Buhari whose government has repeatedly claimed that the Boko Haram Islamist group is close to defeat.

– Dialogue ongoing –

A total of 113 children were seized from the school in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, on February 19, all but two of them girls.

On Wednesday morning, 105 of the girls were brought back by the jihadists, who drove freely into the town in a convoy of vehicles waving the black Boko Haram flag and met by cheering residents.

“The insurgents’ only condition was their demands for a cessation of hostilities and a temporary ceasefire to enable them to return the girls (to) the point they picked them (up),” security director Lawal Daura said.

“The remaining six Dapchi girls are yet to be accounted for and dialogue on these students is still on-going,” he said.

Five girls are said to have died in the initial stages of the kidnapping, while one girl — the only Christian — is still being held, with Buhari on Friday promising to free her.

– ‘Praying for her return’ –

Leah Sharibu is still with her captors, apparently because she refused to convert to Islam.

“It is disheartening that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity,” said Buhari on his official Twitter account.

“We will do everything in our power to bring Leah back safely,” he said.

“There is no news that they have seen my daughter,” Leah’s father Nata Sharibu told AFP over the phone.

“People pray that my daughter will come.”

The Dapchi kidnapping revived painful memories in Nigeria of the April 2014 abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, a town also in the northeast, which caused global outrage.

While some of the Chibok girls have been freed in exchange for ransom and the release of top Boko Haram commanders, a total of 112 remain in captivity.

Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted schools giving a so-called Western education in the mainly-Muslim region as part of an insurgency that has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009.

According to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, more than 2,296 teachers have been killed and some 1,400 schools destroyed in the wider northeast.

On Wednesday, the Borno state government announced that all boarding secondary schools outside Maiduguri and the town of Biu would be closed indefinitely with immediate effect.

Boko Haram has increasingly turned to kidnapping for ransom to raise funds for their operations in the Lake Chad region.

While a 2015 offensive launched by Buhari successfully reclaimed swathes of territory back from the jihadists in Nigeria, the group still stages deadly attacks on both military targets and civilians.

by Ola Awoniyi
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Nigeria repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls: Amnesty — “A War They Don’t Want To Win”

March 20, 2018

Nigeria forces repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls: AmnestyA picture taken on Feb. 28 at the Government Girls Technical College at Dapchi town in northern Nigeria shows a classroom deserted by fleeing students after Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped 110 schoolgirls. Nigeria’s government on March 1 said it had set up a committee to establish how Boko Haram jihadists managed to kidnap the 110 girls from their school in the country’s remote northeast. | AFP

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AFP

Nigeria’s military was on Tuesday accused of ignoring repeated warnings about the movements of Boko Haram fighters before they kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in the country’s restive northeast.

The students — the youngest of whom is aged just 10 — were seized from the town of Dapchi, Yobe state, on Feb. 19 in virtually identical circumstances to those in Chibok in 2014.

Then, more than 200 schoolgirls were taken in an attack that brought sustained world attention on the Islamist insurgency and sparked a global campaign for their release.

President Muhammadu Buhari has called the Dapchi abduction a “national disaster” and vowed to use negotiation rather than force to secure their release.

But as in Chibok nearly four years ago, human rights group Amnesty International claimed the military was warned about the arrival of the heavily armed jihadists — yet failed to act.

In the hours that followed both attacks, the authorities also tried to claim the girls had not been abducted.

Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osa Ojigho said “no lessons appear to have been learned” from Chibok and called for an immediate probe into what she called “inexcusable security lapses.

“The government’s failure in this incident must be investigated and the findings made public — and it is absolutely crucial that any investigation focuses on the root causes,” she added.

“Why were insufficient troops available? Why was it decided to withdraw troops? What measures have the government taken to protect schools in northeast Nigeria?

“And what procedures are supposed to be followed in response to an attempted abduction?”

There was no immediate response from the Nigerian military when contacted by AFP.

Amnesty said that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 19, at least five calls were made to tell the security services that Islamist fighters were in the Dapchi area.

Locals spotted about 50 members of the Islamic State group affiliate in a convoy of nine vehicles in Futchimiram, about 30 km (19 miles) from Dapchi, then at Gumsa.

In Gumsa, where Boko Haram stayed until about 5:00 p.m., residents phoned ahead to Dapchi to warn them. The convoy arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and left about 90 minutes later.

Amnesty, whose researchers spoke to about 23 people and three security officials, said the army command in Geidam had told callers they were aware of the situation and were monitoring.

Police in Dapchi promised to tell divisional commanders, while army commanders in Geidam and Damaturu were also alerted during the attack, it added.

People in Dapchi have previously said troops were withdrawn from the town earlier this year, leaving only a few police officers. The nearest military detachment was an hour away.

The Dapchi abduction has thrown into doubt repeated government and military claims that Boko Haram is on the brink of defeat, after nearly nine years of fighting and at least 20,000 deaths.

Boko Haram, which has used kidnapping as a weapon of war during the conflict, has not claimed responsibility but it is believed a faction headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi is behind it.

Image result for Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, photos

Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi

IS in August 2015 publicly backed Barnawi as the leader of Boko Haram, or Islamic State West Africa Province, over Abubakar Shekau, whose supporters carried out the Chibok abduction.

Analysts have attributed a financial motive to the Dapchi kidnapping given government ransom payments made to Boko Haram to secure the release of some of the captives from Chibok.

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Boko Haram kills 5 fishermen in Borno, Nigeria — Jihadists against fishermen?

March 18, 2018

AFP

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed five fishermen on a remote island in northeastern Nigeria for aiding the search for dozens of schoolgirls kidnapped last month by the jihadists, a local official said Saturday.

“Five men who went fishing near the border with Chad were shot dead,” said Abubakar Gamandi, president of the fisheries union in Borno state, where the killings occurred.

He said the attack happened on Tudun Umbrella island in Lake Chad, which borders Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

Image result for Lake chad, map

Members of the militant Islamist group stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state, in February, taking 110 girls with them as they fled.

Girls at the school in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, where dozens of school girls went missing after an attack on the village by Boko Haram.

The Dapchi kidnapping rekindled painful memories of a similar mass abduction by Boko Haram four years ago, when more than 200 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in an act that shocked the world.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the February 19 abduction a “national disaster” and a widespread hunt for the girls is under way.

Gamandi said the fishermen were killed because they were assisting the military in the search.

“Fishermen have been assisting the military in the operation to locate the schoolgirls because we know the terrain well,” he told AFP.

Boko Haram have repeatedly attacked fishermen in the border region around Lake Chad in recent years.

Nigeria’s battle against the extremist group in northeastern regions has left more than 20,000 people dead and forced more than 1.5 million to flee their homes since 2009.

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Egypt army says 16 jihadists killed in Sinai operation

March 11, 2018

AFP

© EGYPTIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/AFP | An image grab from a video released by the Egyptian Defence Ministry on February 9, 2018 shows Army spokesman Colonel Tamer al-Rifai announcing the launch of a major operation against the Islamic State (IS) group

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s military said Sunday 16 jihadists, an officer and a soldier were killed in the past four days during a major military operation against Islamic State group jihadists in Sinai.The army launched a sweeping campaign after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is standing in elections for his second term this month, gave them a three-month deadline to crush IS in Sinai.

He issued his ultimatum in November after suspected IS gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers in a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics.

Since the military, then led by Sisi, ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, security forces have sought to quell attacks by the Egypt branch of IS.

The jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in North Sinai but also elsewhere in Egypt.

They have also killed scores of Christians in church bombings and shootings, as well as bombing a Russian airliner carrying tourists from an Egyptian resort in 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

The military says it has evidence IS has sought to move members to Sinai following its defeats in Iraq and Syria.

Daesh militants waging fresh bid to set up Southeast Asian caliphate

February 23, 2018

 

Daesh-linked militants occupied Marawi City south of the Philippines for over five months before government forces retook control in October last year. (AFP)
MANILA: Months after being routed from the southern Philippine city of Marawi, militants are waging a fresh and deadly bid to set up a Southeast Asian caliphate in the same region, the military warned Friday.
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The gunmen have mustered a force of about 200 fighters and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces this year after government forces retook Marawi last October, Col. Romeo Brawner said.
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“They have not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” said Brawner, the commander of a Marawi-based military task force.
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“Mindanao is the most fertile ground,” he said, referring to the country’s southern region.
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Struggling with widespread poverty and armed Muslim insurgencies seeking independence or self-rule, Mindanao must improve poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas where most young gunmen are recruited, he added.
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He said the armed forces are retooling to meet the challenge of the Maute group, which occupied Marawi over five months and has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based Daesh group.
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Gunmen who escaped during the early days of the US-backed operation to recapture Marawi are leading the recruitment effort, flush with cash, guns and jewelry looted from the city’s banks and private homes, Brawner said.
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The recruits are mostly locals, but an unspecified number of Indonesians, some with bomb-making skills, have recently arrived there, he said.
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Mindanao military officials said the Maute gunmen murdered three traders in the town of Piagapo, near Marawi, in November last year.
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Three militants were killed in Pantar, another neighboring town, on February 8, while three of the Piagapo merchants’ suspected killers were arrested in that town last month.
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The military also reported skirmishes with the Maute gunmen in the towns of Masiu and Pagayawan near Marawi last month.
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The renewed fighting came after President Rodrigo Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region warned of a potential repeat of the siege of Marawi which claimed more than 1,100 lives.
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Duterte has imposed martial law over Mindanao until the end of the year to curb the militants’ challenge.
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Ebrahim Murad, head of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014, also warned Tuesday that militants were recruiting and could seize another Filipino city.

Boko Haram: The Jihadist Killers Nigeria Seems Unable or Unwilling To Stop — How often has the Government of Nigeria Declared Victory over Boko Haram since 2009?

February 22, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Suicide bomb attacks and abductions have been the hallmarks of Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria’s Boko Haram, suspected of another mass kidnapping of school girls, started out as an Islamic anti-corruption group but mutated into an IS affiliate waging a lethal insurgency.- Fundamentalist –

Boko Haram aims to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria — a campaign that has cost at least 20,000 lives since 2009 and at its peak displaced 2.6 million from their homes. The name loosely translates from the Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden”.

Founder and spiritual leader Mohammed Yusuf pinned the blame for Nigeria’s ills on Western values left by colonial master Britain, criticised the country’s corrupt secular regime for neglecting development in Muslim regions and advocated a return to fundamentalist Islam.

He came to the attention of authorities in 2002 when he began to build a following among disaffected youths in Maiduguri.

Yusuf was killed in police custody in 2009 after an uprising in Maiduguri that prompted a military assault which killed some 700 people and left the group’s mosque and headquarters in ruins.

Many of its supporters fled the country.

– Violent turn –

Boko Haram was broadly peaceful before Yusuf’s death.

But his successor, his right-hand man Abubakar Shekau, undertook a violent campaign of deadly attacks on schools, churches, mosques, state entities and security forces.

Some Boko Haram members are thought to have trained with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.

Among the group’s most notorious acts was the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok. A total of 107 have since been released, found or escaped.

The mass abduction brought world attention to the insurgency at a time when Boko Haram was seizing territory across the northeast, which became a largely no-go area, with the violence spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

In August 2014 Shekau proclaimed a “caliphate” in the Borno town of Gwoza and in March 2015 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

– Split –

The long-divided Boko Haram underwent a major split in 2016 when the IS recognised Yusuf’s son, Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, as its leader.

The Barnawi faction is particularly active on the Chad and Niger borders and has said it will attack Nigerian government targets and the military.

Shekau’s faction operated out of the Sambisa Forest in Borno state, near the Cameroon border, and is responsible for unrelenting suicide bombings targeting civilians.

– Fight back –

President Muhammadu Buhari made crushing Boko Haram one of his priorities after he took office in May 2015.

The Nigerian military has since claimed to have reduced it to a spent and divided force but regular bloody raids and suicide bomb attacks continue.

The violence has forced 2.6 million from their homes since 2009, destroying property and farmland in the mainly rural northeast and sparking a humanitarian crisis and acute food shortages.

In January, troops from Nigeria and backed by others from Cameroon, Chad and Niger launched major offensives against the two Boko Haram factions.

The Nigerian military claimed “tremendous progress”.

Mass hearings started in October last year of 1,669 people arrested over the years on suspicion of being members of Boko Haram, including some women and children.

Since then more than 900 have been released, mostly for lack of evidence.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat and closeup

Goodluck Jonathan

 (Has links to several previous articles)

Remember this from April 2014? From left: Michelle Obama, Cara Delevingne and Malala Yousafzai call for the release of the girls during the “hashtag campaign”

Parents of abducted Chibok girls cry as police denied them access to see President Muhammadu Buhari during a rally in Abuja

Parents of abducted Chibok girls cry as police denied them access to see President Muhammadu Buhari during a rally in Abuja, Nigeria August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Scores of girls ‘missing’ after new Boko Haram school attack — Nigerian government spending a lot on arms, ammunitions, vehicles but it isn’t clear they really want to do away with Boko Haram

February 21, 2018

AFP

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© BOKO HARAM/AFP / by Aminu ABUBAKAR, with Phil HAZLEWOOD in Lagos | Fourteen missing ‘Chibok girls’ were seen in a video released on January 15 by their abductors

KANO (NIGERIA) (AFP) – Fears grew in northeast Nigeria on Wednesday about the fate of potentially scores of girls who have not been seen since a Boko Haram attack on their school two days ago.Militants stormed the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state, on Monday evening. Locals initially said the girls and their teachers fled the attack.

The jihadists gained worldwide notoriety in April 2014 when they abducted 276 girls from their school in Chibok, in neighbouring Borno state.

Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath and since May last year, 107 have either escaped or been released as part of a government-brokered deal. A total of 112 are still being held.

Monday’s incident sparked fears of a repeat of Chibok and on Wednesday morning some 50 parents and guardians gathered at the school demanding information.

“Our girls have been missing for two days and we don’t know their whereabouts,” Abubakar Shehu, whose niece is among those missing, told AFP.

“Although we were told they had run to some villages, we have been to all these villages mentioned without any luck. We are beginning to harbour fears the worst might have happened.

“We have the fear that we are dealing with another Chibok scenario.”

– Confused picture –

According to school staff, there were 710 students at the state-run boarding school, which caters for girls aged 11 and above.

Inuwa Mohammed, whose 16-year-old daughter, Falmata, is also missing, said it was a confused picture and that parents had been frantically searching surrounding villages.

“Nobody is telling us anything officially,” he said. “We still don’t know how many of our daughters were recovered and how many are still missing.

“We have been hearing many numbers, between 67 and 94.”

Police in the state, which is one of three in the northeast Nigeria worst-affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, said they had no reports of abductions following the attack.

Yobe’s education commissioner, Mohammed Lamin, said the school had been shut and a rollcall of all the girls who have returned was being conducted.

“It is only after the head-count that we will be able to say whether any girls were taken,” he said.

Some of the girls had fled to villages up to 30 kilometres (nearly 20 miles) away through the remote bushland, he added.

– Weapon of war –

Boko Haram has used kidnapping as a weapon of war since its insurgency began in 2009, seizing thousands of women and young girls, as well as men and boys of fighting age.

Some 300 children were among 500 people abducted from the town of Damasak in November 2014.

Getting accurate information from the remote northeast remains difficult. The army still largely controls access and infrastructure has been devastated by nine years of conflict.

In Chibok, the military initially claimed the students had all been found but was forced to back-track when parents and the school principal said otherwise.

As the issue gained world attention, spawning the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, the then president Goodluck Jonathan was increasingly criticised for his lacklustre response.

The mass abduction and Jonathan’s handling of it was seen as contributing to his 2015 election defeat to Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to bring the Boko Haram insurgency to an end.

But despite Buhari’s repeated claims the group is weakened to the point of defeat, civilians remain vulnerable to suicide attacks and hit-and-run raids in the remote northeast.

No-one from Buhari’s administration has yet commented on Dapchi.

Security analysts told AFP on Tuesday that government ransom payments to secure the release of the Chibok girls could have given the under-pressure group ideas for financing.

“They need money for arms, ammunitions, vehicles, to keep their army of fighters moving across the borders,” said Amaechi Nwokolo, from the Roman Institute of International Studies.

“They’re spending a lot of money on arms and logistics.”

by Aminu ABUBAKAR, with Phil HAZLEWOOD in Lagos
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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat and closeup

Goodluck Jonathan

 (Has links to several previous articles)

Remember this from April 2014? From left: Michelle Obama, Cara Delevingne and Malala Yousafzai call for the release of the girls during the “hashtag campaign”

Parents of abducted Chibok girls cry as police denied them access to see President Muhammadu Buhari during a rally in Abuja

Parents of abducted Chibok girls cry as police denied them access to see President Muhammadu Buhari during a rally in Abuja, Nigeria August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

‘Marawi attackers set sights on 2nd city’

February 20, 2018

 

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.  Credit KJ Rosales

(Associated Press) – February 21, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Islamic State (IS) group-linked militants planned but failed to attack another southern Philippine city shortly after troops crushed their siege of Marawi last year, the leader of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said yesterday.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.

Murad said his group relayed intelligence about the planned attacks on the two cities, which are bustling commercial hubs, to government forces through ceasefire channels established during years of peace talks. He made the comments at a forum with foreign news correspondents, stressing how his group has helped battle terrorism.

President Duterte and military officials have also said that remnants of the radical groups behind the five-month siege that devastated Marawi were hunting for new recruits and plotting new attacks.

Duterte mentioned the threats in a speech late Monday in which he criticized Canada for imposing restrictions on the use of combat helicopters the Philippines has sought to buy. He has ordered the military to cancel the purchase.

“They are about to retake another city in the Philippines or to take another geographical unit but I couldn’t use the helicopters,” Duterte said, explaining that the Bell helicopters could not be employed in combat assaults.

Duterte has not elaborated on the nature of post-Marawi attack threats.

Murad’s group, which the military estimates has about 10,000 fighters scattered mostly in the marshy south, hopes Congress will pass legislation this year implementing a 2014 autonomy pact with the government.

He said the prospects appear bright, but added that the rebels are aware that the government failed to enforce peace pacts in the past, prompting disgruntled rebels to form breakaway groups.

The rebel leader warned that restive young Muslims in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, may be drawn to extremism if the peace efforts fail.

As IS group militants lose bases in the Middle East, “we will increasingly find them in our midst as they seek new strategic grounds where the hold of government is weak such as in Mindanao,” Murad said.

Last year, Murad said his group lost 24 fighters who were defending rural communities from breakaway militants who have aligned with the IS. “We know we cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

The new Muslim autonomous zone, which generally covers five poor provinces, is to replace an existing one that is seen as a dismal failure. The new plan grants much more autonomy, power and guaranteed resources to the region.

The rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao in an insurrection that has killed about 150,000 combatants and civilians. The United States and other Western governments have backed the autonomy deal, partly to prevent the insurgency from breeding extremists.

Read more at https://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/21/1789910/marawi-attackers-set-sights-2nd-city#TMKuVgfiM2cuKfkH.99

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Philippines: Islamic group warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

February 20, 2018

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), gestures as he speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
MANILA: If the Philippines Congress does not pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), extremism could rise in Mindanao, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned on Tuesday. The BBL follows the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.
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Foreign fighters continue to arrive in Mindanao, said MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim.
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“They’re coming in from the porous borders in the south (Mindanao), from Malaysia, Indonesia,” he added.
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“And it’s not only Malaysians and Indonesians… There are some Middle Eastern people coming in.”
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The MILF received information that a Canadian of Arab origin, not older than 25, entered recently and went to Patikul in Sulu to join the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ebrahim said.
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“So this challenge with extremism is really very high, and… we really need to cooperate, everybody, in order to counter extremism,” he added.
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Daesh continues to be a threat to the Philippines because it is being displaced in the Middle East, he said.
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“We’re all aware of what happened in the Middle East. I think nobody wants it to happen here,” he added.
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The chances of another Marawi siege cannot be ruled out because extremists “can still partner with many other small groups, like Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF),” Ebrahim said.
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“We’ve seen the destruction in Marawi. In more than 40 years of conflict in Mindanao, this never happened,” he added.
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“There has been no city or community that was turned into rubble completely. And this happened… when we’re already in the final stage of the peace process.”
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While the MILF is doing its part to prevent terrorists from gaining ground on the island, “the best and most effective counter to them is when the peace process will succeed,” he said.
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“We can’t decisively win the war against extremism if we can’t win the peace in the halls of Congress.”
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The assistant secretary for peace and security, Dickson Hermoso, told Arab News that the BBL “will be passed based on the reaction of the majority of the people on the ground.”
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He added: “They want the BBL, based on consultations by the Senate and congressional committees. There’s overwhelming support from the Bangsamoro people.”
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The Senate plans to pass the bill by March 22, before it goes on recess, Hermoso said, expressing hope that it will be signed into law by the president before the end of next month.
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Political analyst Ramon Casiple said he expects the BBL to be passed soon, but warned that if not, another Marawi siege is possible.
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The president may call for a special session of Congress just to see the bill passed, Casiple added.
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