Posts Tagged ‘Maute’

Philippines: Duterte declares Marawi freed from terrorists

October 17, 2017
In this Oct. 2, 2017 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte, on his sixth visit to Marawi City, led the inauguration of the Bahay Pag-asa Project at Barangay Bito Buadi Itowa that is intended for the residents of Marawi who were internally displaced due to the conflict in the area. The President also tagged along actor Robin Padilla to provide entertainment to the soldiers. Robinson Niñal Jr./Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared the liberation of besieged Marawi City from terrorists.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte said in a speech before troops 148th day into the crisis.

Duterte’s announcement came after Marawi siege leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed in a military operation on Monday dawn. His announcement drew cheers from troops present during his speech.

Marawi City has been besieged by the ISIS-inspired terror group Maute since May 23.

The president declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao to neutralize the local terror group and contain violence in the region. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region.

Despite the liberation of Marawi City, martial law will take effect until December 2017.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines reported that as of October 16, 824 terrorists were killed, 827 firearms were recovered and 1,771 hostages were rescued. On the part of the government, 162 soldiers were killed and 1,000 others were wounded in action.

AFP chief Eduardo Año earlier said they are still pursuing dozens of fighters in the battlefield including Indonesians and Malaysians.

After the crisis, the AFP said it would be pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters next in a vow to end terrorism in Mindanao.

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‘Strong’ Philippine priest smiles after IS hostage ordeal ends

September 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Mynardo MACARAIG | Catholic priest Father Teresito Suganob (2nd L) was taken hostage along with about 13 parishioners from a local cathedral in Marawi city

MANILA (AFP) – A Catholic priest kidnapped by Islamic State supporters when they seized parts of a southern Philippine city nearly four months ago smiled and declared himself “strong” Monday after escaping.Father Teresito Suganob called for prayers at a press conference at military headquarters in Manila after he was rescued late on Saturday when the military said it overran the militants’ control centre inside a mosque in Marawi city.

“Thank you and I pray for you, God bless you all. Pray for me, for my recovery,” said Suganob, 51, as he smiled and waved to reporters.

In a jocular mood despite his ordeal, the heavily bearded but apparently well-fed Suganob declared: “I am physically strong and handsome. That’s it for now.”

Hundreds of gunmen rampaged through Marawi, the main Muslim city in the mostly Catholic Philippines, on May 23 and then occupied key districts in what authorities said was an attempt to establish a Southeast Asian base for IS in the Philippines.

More than 850 people have been killed and large parts of Marawi destroyed in the ensuing fighting, which has seen the gunmen defy a US-backed military campaign that has included heavy bombing.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis.

Suganob, a parish priest in Marawi commonly known as “Father Chito”, was taken hostage along with about 13 parishioners from a local cathedral on the first day of the fighting.

The militants later released a video showing themselves vandalising the cathedral.

Another video released by his captors in late May showed Suganob standing in the rubble of buildings in Marawi asking President Duterte to withdraw troops and stop the military offensive.

– ‘Prisoners of war’ –

Suganob said at the time that the gunmen were holding 240 “prisoners of war”, including teachers, carpenters and household workers. They were mostly Christians and local tribespeople.

“We want to live another day. We want to live another month,” Suganob said in the video as gunfire was heard in the distance.

One escaped hostage later told authorities that Suganob had been forced to serve as a cook for the militants, according to the then-military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera in early July.

This was one of many reports that the militants were forcing their hostages to work as slaves.

Authorities said the hostages’ roles included carrying the gunmen’s food and ammunition, serving as stretcher-bearers for their wounded, collecting munitions and even acting as human shields.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Suganob and another hostage, a 29-year-old male school teacher surnamed Acopio, were able to escape late on Saturday night as the militants pulled out of a mosque following hours of fighting.

“As the intensity of the armed confrontation continued to escalate in favour of our troops and as the terrorists were busy repelling the attack, our troops had the opportunity to snatch Father Chito and Mr Acopio,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana and military chiefs described Saturday’s overrunning of the mosque and another building that had been used by the militants as important victories, and predicted an end to the crisis soon.

“It is close, our soldiers on the ground are saying that we are near to finishing,” Lorenzana said.

Nevertheless they conceded many obstacles remained, including improvised explosive devices and secret tunnels where the militants were hiding other hostages.

“The Bato mosque, underneath there are a lot of intricate tunnels and secret chambers so we are actually clearing those chambers and there are hostages in there,” military chief Eduardo Ano said.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that 673 militants, 47 civilians and 149 soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

He said there were 40 to 60 hostages and that some were still being forced to fight with the gunmen.

There were up to 80 fighters on the IS side but they could include some of the hostages, according to Padilla.

by Mynardo MACARAIG
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Priest rescued as Philippine troops retake parts of Marawi — “Our troops gained the upper hand, the terrorists were forced to withdraw”

September 18, 2017
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Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub waves to the media and soldiers at a military camp, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine troops rescued a catholic priest held hostage for almost four months by Islamic State-linked rebels after an offensive that captured a stronghold of the militants in southern Marawi City, defense officials said on Monday.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub was kidnapped along with other Christians as militants rampaged through the city on May 23, burning churches and schools, releasing prisoners and seizing arms in a well-planned assault.

Soganub, flanked by Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief General Eduardo Ano, appeared to be in good health and high spirits when he was presented to the media in Manila. He expressed his thanks but gave no statement.

“Our troops gained the upper hand, the terrorists were forced to withdraw to nearby structures on the periphery of the mosque,” Lorenzana told a media briefing in Manila, referring to the Bato mosque held by the rebels for 117 days.

“Troops had opportunity to snatch Father Chito…”

The appearance of Soganub is some rare good news for a military that has suffered a string of setbacks in Marawi, from deadly accidents during a controversial campaign of air strikes to repeatedly missing deadlines on when the battle would be won.

The siege of the city by an alliance of rebels from the island of Mindanao, and numerous foreign fighters, has been the biggest internal security crisis in years for the Philippines, a country used to separatist and communist rebellions.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub smiles as he is flanked by Philippine Armed Forces chief Eduardo Ano (L) and Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

Soganub made an appearance under duress in a militant propaganda video about a week after his capture, urging the government to stop the military operation in Marawi in exchange for sparing lives of hostages.

The priest was among scores held by militants at the Bato mosque, one of Marawi’s largest, which troops captured on Saturday afternoon. He was rescued along with another hostage, Lordvin Ocopio.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub speaks before the media, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

The rebels who laid siege to Marawi are from an extremist faction of the Abu Sayyaf group, led by Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called “emir” of  Southeast Asia, and members of the militant Maute family, which has deep clan connections in the lakeside town and surrounding areas.

Military chief Ano said about 10 foreigners were still in the battle among some 50-60 rebels, who were holding 45-50 hostages.

Hapilon was among those still fighting but several of the Maute brothers were likely dead, Ano added, citing information provided by civilians who escaped and some captured rebels.

As of Monday, 149 members of government forces had died in combat, along with 47 civilians.

More than 670 militants have been killed, according to a military estimate of bodies recovered and targets hit.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Tom Allard and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore

Philippines Says Some Rebels Ready to Surrender as Troops Advance in Marawi

September 11, 2017

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Some Islamic State-linked militants besieging the southern Philippines city of Marawi have sent “feelers” they are prepared to surrender after three and a half months of fighting, the military said on Monday.

Philippine forces have used loudspeakers urging militants to give themselves up, telling the estimated 50 to 60 fighters left in the city their lives would be spared if they disarm, change out of their black clothes and walk to a designated location.

“Hopefully, we will have surrenders within the next days,” spokesman Colonel Romeo Brawner told a news conference.

“There are feelers. Definitely, there are feelers,” he added, declining to elaborate.

The surrender offer came after a renewed, if short-lived, effort by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to start back-channel talks with militants, with a former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali to have acted as an intermediary.

Duterte on Saturday ruled out the possibility of allowing rebels to flee in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages.

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Philippines — Air Force helicopter squadron in action in Marawi

Two troops were killed at the weekend, taking to 147 the number of security forces killed in the Marawi conflict. Some 655 militants and 45 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

Troops were engaged in running battles with the militant alliance, led by Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute of the Maute group, and Isnilon Hapilon, a factional head of the Abu Sayyaf group, and Islamic State’s so-called “emir” in Southeast Asia.

More than 20 structures were captured, many laden with booby traps. Some were commercial high-rise buildings that have been used as sniper positions to thwart government forces.

Brawner described the operations as “a big accomplishment considering the enemy established very strong defensive positions”.

While some areas of Marawi are seeing citizens return and shops and schools re-open, most of the city remains deserted. Its center is a wasteland, pummeled by daily air strikes and ground battles.

The resistance of the militants has frustrated the more than 400,000 residents displaced from the area and raised questions about how relatively few Islamists took control of the lakeside town and held significant parts of it.

“We are receiving a lot of questions: why is it taking too long for the government to recover this area?” said Brawner.

“It is really difficult to do urban fighting.”

The United States has been giving technical and logistics support to the Philippine military and on Monday announced it had deployed a Gray Eagle unmanned surveillance aircraft over Marawi.

Australia has also provided two P3-Orion surveillance planes and last week announced it would send more defense personnel to train Philippine troops.

For a graphic on how main Islamic militant groups in Mindanao evolved, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041FJ346/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS-HISTORY.jpg

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041BW2VW/PHILIPPINEs-MILITANTS3.jpg

(Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)

Philippine Army Says Taking Fire From Women, Children in Marawi Battle — Duterte doesn’t see end of Marawi crisis much before December

September 4, 2017

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Philippine troops fighting Islamic State-linked rebels in a southern city have encountered armed resistance from women and children, the military said on Monday, as troops make a final push to end a conflict that has raged for more than 100 days.

Ground forces were braced for higher casualties amid fierce fighting in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, where the field of battle has shrank to a small area in a commercial heart infested with snipers, and littered with booby traps.

“We are now in the final phase of our operations and we are expecting more intense and bloody fighting. We may suffer heavier casualties as the enemy becomes more desperate,” Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, who heads the military in Western Mindanao, told reporters.

He said the number of fighters was diminishing and a small number of women and children, most likely family members of the rebels, were now engaged in combat.

“Our troops in the field are seeing women and children shooting at our troops so that’s why it seems they are not running out of fighters.”

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 The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

More than 800 people have been killed in the battle, most of them insurgents, since May 23 when the militants occupied large parts of the predominantly Muslim town.

The battle is the biggest security challenge in years for the mostly Catholic Philippines, even though it has a long history of Muslim separatist rebellion in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people that has been placed under martial law until the end of the year.

The protracted clashes and resilience of the rebels has fanned fears that Philippine groups loyal to Islamic State, and with ties to Indonesian and Malaysian militants, have formed an alliance that is well-organized, funded and armed, and serious about carving out its own territory in Mindanao.

Citing information provided by four hostages who had escaped from the rebels, Galvez said there were some 56 Christian hostages – most of them women – and about 80 male residents may have been forced to take up arms and fight the military.

The fighting was concentrated in an area around a mosque about a quarter of a square kilometer. He said soldiers were taking control of an average 35 buildings a day and at that rate, it could be three weeks before the city was under government control.

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Philippine Marines, backed by a V300 infantry fighting vehicle, cross Mapandi Bridge, a key area in the fighting in Marawi City that has now reached a hundred days. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News

AIR STRIKES

Fighting in Marawi was intense on Monday, with heavy gunfire and explosions ringing out across the picturesque, lakeside town, the heart of which has been devastated by near-daily government air strikes.

Helicopters circled above to provide air cover for ground troops as fighting raged, with bursts of smoke rising above the skyline as bombs landed on rebel positions.

Galvez said intelligence showed the rebels’ military commander, Abdullah Maute, may have been killed last month in an air strike.

Postings on Facebook and chatter over the past two days on Telegram, a messaging application used by Islamic State and its sympathizers, had carried tributes to Abdullah, referring to him by one of his pseudonyms, he said.

“There is no 100 percent confirmation until we see his cadaver but this is enough to presume he died already,” he said.

The military has contradictory statements about the status of the rebel leaders over the past few months.

Abdullah Maute and brother Omarkhayam are the Middle East-educated leaders of a militant clan known as the Maute group that has gained notoriety in the past two years due to its ability to engage the army for long periods.

Under the name Dawla Islamiya, the Maute group has formed an alliance with Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a pro-Islamic State faction of another group, Abu Sayyaf.

Galvez said the army’s intelligence indicated both Omarkhayam and Hapilon, Islamic State’s anointed “emir” in Southeast Asia, were still in the Marawi battle.

For a graphic on how main Islamic militant groups in Mindanao evolved, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041FJ346/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS-HISTORY.jpg

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041BW2VW/PHILIPPINEs-MILITANTS3.jpg

For a graphic on deaths in Marawi, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010050L81DG/marawi-fatality.jpg

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Duterte sees end of Marawi crisis by December

 / 07:29 AM September 04, 2017

marawi

The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

DAVAO CITY — The Marawi crisis should end soon so that the government can deal with other problems that could erupt into bigger troubles, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday.

Mr. Duterte was referring to the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose members are becoming restive over the delay in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

“I have until the end of the year to contain this thing,” Mr. Duterte told reporters here late on Saturday after attending the birthday celebration of Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.

“You know, the Marawi [crisis] is ending. What’s prolonging it is our effort to save the lives of everybody, including the terrorists if possible. I objected, I ruled out the bombing of mosques because destroying that could mean the destruction of what’s in the soul of Muslims everywhere,” he said.

Mr. Duterte said targeting the mosques could also put the lives of the hostages at risk.

The military said last week the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists holed up in Marawi were still holding about 50 hostages, but on Saturday, the President said he was not sure.

He said the terrorists could kill the hostages at government troops’ first attempt to storm buildings held by the gunmen.

‘We’ll get Hapilon’

Mr. Duterte said he was being cautious “because at the end of the day, I take the blame for everything.”

On Sunday, Malacañang promised that the government would capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government believed Hapilon, leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction that joined the Maute terror group in attacking Marawi, was still alive and in the city, surrounded by government troops.

Raw information

“We treat numerous reports saying that Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly in Basilan as raw information requiring further validation by the military and various security agencies of [the] government,” he said in a statement.

“Granting Isnilon Hapilon’s whereabouts in Basilan is true, it would mean that he chose to abandon his men as the battle of Marawi nears its final stretch,” Abella said.

But recent military assessment indicated that Hapilon, who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group in the Middle East, is “still very much in Marawi,” he added. —With a report from Philip C. Tubeza in Manila

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/927722/duterte-sees-end-of-marawi-crisis-by-december#ixzz4rhAylnf9
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Philippine Military Still Bogged Down Fighting Islamic State-Inspired Terrorists in Marawi

September 3, 2017
 / 11:41 PM September 02, 2017
marawi assault

This file photo shows military troops belonging to the 5th Marine Battalion of the 1st Marine brigade assaulting one of the strong holds of Maute terrorist group in the village of Mapandi after an airstrike from MG-520 attack helicopter on May 20 .(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/927451/marawi-city-bayabao-bridge-malacanang-ernesto-abella-strategic-bridge-retaking-afp-maute-group#ixzz4rbHlKohW
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Published: 1:52 p.m., Sept. 2, 2017 | Updated: 11:41 p.m., Sept. 2, 2017

Malacañang on Saturday lauded the military’s retaking of a strategic bridge in Marawi City from the Islamic State-inspired terrorists.

On Friday morning, government forces have taken control of Bayabao bridge in Barangay Banggolo, which became a major battle ground between government troo

READ: Troops start final push to retake Marawi from terrorists

Philippine soldiers on patrol on Wednesday in a part of Marawi recently seized from militants loyal to the Islamic State. Credit Jes Aznar for The New York Times

“The retaking of this strategic bridge is an important development as we continue to gain the upper hand in the main battle area and expand our vantage positions with more troop deployments,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“Military operations continue to remain intense and focused, with the safety of hostages in mind, in the hope of bringing a quicker end to the rebellion and retake Marawi from the evil hands of the Maute terrorist rebels,” Abella added.

The Bayabao bridge is one of the three bridges that lead to the center of Marawi.

Three soldiers were killed while 52 others were wounded as the Philippine Marines took over the bridge.

Abella said the military operations against the terrorists continued to be “intense and focused” with the safety of civilians a primary concern of soldiers, who were also hoping for a quicker end to the fighting.

Abella also said President Duterte and the military were trying to spare Marawi mosques from destruction during the war.

He said Mr. Duterte and the Armed Forces “are taking pains to preserve places of worship” as in the case of the Grand Mosque, which had been liberated from terrorists but remained standing.

He said although there were cases exempted from international conventions that barred targeting places of worship during war, “we have deliberately chosen to preserve” mosques in Marawi.

The military ran an armored convoy through Marawi during a tour by journalists. Credit Jes Aznar for The New York Times

Abella issued the statement after Mr. Duterte, on Friday, said he preferred that the military not to target mosques used by terrorists to hide because it would anger residents of the city.

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Buildings in Marawi, The Philippines, show the intensity of the months-long battle to re-take the town from Islamic State influenced terrorists

It was a sharp turnaround from Mr. Duterte’s earlier statement, made on Wednesday, that he was leaving it up to the military whether to bomb mosques being used as hiding places by terrorists.

The war on terror in Marawi has been raging for more than three months.  JPV

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/927451/marawi-city-bayabao-bridge-malacanang-ernesto-abella-strategic-bridge-retaking-afp-maute-group#ixzz4rbHaABZb
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Palace: Isnilon Hapilon ‘still very much in Marawi’

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Philippine Abu Sayyaf group senior leader Isnilon Hapilon. From YouTube video — The Philippine government says he is probably still free, fighting and in Marawi

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MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Sunday said that terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon is believed to still be in Marawi City but said that the government is validating reports that he has fled to Basilan.
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“We treat numerous reports saying that Isnilon Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly in Basilan as raw information,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Sunday.
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He said that information has to be further validated “by the military and various security agencies of government.”
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Joint Task Force Basilan, which handles security operations in that province, said last week that it has been combing the island for Hapilon’s followers to preempt potential sympathy attacks for their trapped leader.
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Col. Juvymax Uy, task force commander, said the military is also watching out for movements that could indicate Hapilon is returning or has returned.
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READ: Who is Philippines’ most wanted militant Isnilon Hapilon?
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Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, is said to be the emir or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Philippines.
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Read the rest:
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http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/09/03/1735420/palace-isnilon-hapilon-still-very-much-marawi

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In City of Ruins, Philippines’ Battle Against ISIS Rages On

The New York Times

MARAWI, Philippines — The houses still standing after more than three months of fierce urban combat in Marawi are barely holding on — pocked with bullet holes on the outside and blackened by fire from within.

“I really can’t say when we will be able to finish this,” said Brig. Gen. Melquiades Ordiales, with the Philippine Marines. A cackle of small-arms fire and the thuds of mortar shell explosions could be heard in the distance as soldiers targeted another pocket of militant fighters.

Rubble and debris had been swept from the street around him, making room for a large group of journalists, including three from The New York Times, who were allowed to visit a newly recaptured part of the city this week.

With the battle now past the 100-day mark, it was the first time in months that the military had allowed the press in. And though the tour was tightly choreographed, there was no hiding either the profound destruction from airstrikes and artillery barrages, or the fact that the fighting remains intense. Just Thursday, three soldiers were reported killed, and 52 more were injured.

Read more:

 

Philippine Troops in Tough Push in Marawi; Three Dead, 52 Hurt

September 1, 2017

MANILA — Philippine troops have fought one of their toughest clashes against militants loyal to Islamic State in a southern town, and three soldiers were killed and 52 wounded, many by rebel bombs as they pushed forward, an officer said on Friday.

The Islamists shocked the country by seizing large parts of Marawi town in May. After more than 100 days of fighting, pockets of fighters remain dug in in the ruins.

The army made its push on Thursday, the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and seized a bridge in what military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla described as some of the toughest fighting yet.

At least five militants were killed, he said.

“We are working to clear the remaining areas where the enemy is holding out,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Following a short pause early today, to give due respect to the solemnity and significance of this day, the operations will continue without any let up,” he said, referring to the Muslim holiday.

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FILE PHOTO

The military has expressed confidence the end is in sight for what has been its biggest security crisis in years, which started in May, but the latest casualties underscore the difficulty that they still face in the battlefield.

In all, 620 militants, 45 civilians and 136 soldiers and policemen have been killed in the fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and raised fears about Islamic State establishing a foothold in Southeast Asia.

The military has missed repeated targets and deadlines to crush the rebels in Marawi, a largely Muslim town on the southern island of Mindanao, raising questions about whether it can contain a wider rebellion.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who placed all of Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year after the militants occupied Marawi, has urged lawmakers to approve funds to beef up the army by 20,000 troops.

On Friday, Duterte said he saw no reason to lift martial law in Mindanao, citing violence in other parts of the island.

“The way it looks, there seems to be some spillover,” he said, without elaborating.

Muslim rebels in the south of the predominately Christian Philippines have for generations battled for greater autonomy but in recent years hopes for peace were raised with several factions engaged in talks.

But the Marawi fighting has dimmed those hopes.

For an interactive on battle for Marawi, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-ATTACK/010041F032X/index.html

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Duterte contradicts earlier statement to bomb Marawi mosque

In this June 9, 2017 photo, a mosque in Marawi City is silhouetted against a setting sun. File

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said that he advised the military against bombing a mosque in Marawi City where Islamist fighters were believed to be holding dozens of hostages, a remark that contradicts a statement he gave early this week giving the Armed Forces the option to attack the Muslim place of worship to end the siege already more than 100 days old.

Duterte on Wednesday said that during his last visit to Marawi, the country’s only Islamic city, he told the military that bombing the mosque was up to them as the country could not afford to have a stalemate for a long period of time.

“Yung the last time I was there, that would be around five days ago, six days ago, I finally said na ano, ‘The option is already yours because we cannot have a stalemate for over one year,’” he said in a speech.

The president also detailed that night his earlier apprehension over the bombing of the mosque as it could fuel anger among the town’s residents who were already resentful because their property and houses had already been destroyed by the AFP’s air and ground assaults.

He said such an offensive would virtually sacrifice the lives of the hostages still in Maute’s hands.

“Matagal na ‘yan sa on deck na talagang gusto bobombahin ang mosque to capture or kill the leaders there and in the process, sacrifice ‘yung mga hostage who are all Filipinos, maybe Maranaos and a mingling of Christians, Tagalog, nandiyan. Kung gusto na nilang lusubin noon, sabi ko, “Ayaw ko’,” the president said.

As Muslims celebrate their Feast of the Sacrifice, one of their holiest celebrations, on Friday, Duterte swung back to his previous position on the issue, this time in front of the soldiers of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Duterte said that that he had been consistently against the bombing even if he had left the crafting of the military strategy with the AFP’s generals and commanders.

He said that he had told the military’s generals that bombing the mosque would foment hatred among the resident already reeling from the displacement caused by the most serious security problem to confront Duterte so far.

The military also could not sacrifice the welfare of the civilians, Duterte claimed to have told his generals.

“Sinabi ko sa mga top echelons we cannot destroy the mosques because that will forever wala na katapusan ang hatred dyan,” he told soldiers. “But what will give us in terms of good will? We would have wounded the feelings of the entire Muslim world.”

The president also discussed how he grieved over reports of deaths of military personnel every night, saying that it was difficult for him to face families left behind by men killed in the conflict.

He said: “Ako yung nandun, ako yung sinasalubong ng yakap pati iyak.”

The chief executive also challenged his critics who had been advocating a different approach to the conflict labeled by one expert as the most serious terror event to have struck Southeast Asia in the past 15 years.

“I hope the time will come na sila talaga. Tingnan natin kung maganda yang suggestion nila. There is another way to fight ISIS let alone Maute,” he said, describing the radical group as an organization “geared to the destruction of mankind.”

The conflict in Marawi has highlighted the security challenge the Philippines and its neighboring countries face as the specter of a so-called Islamic State province looms in the horizon.

It has also highlighted the deficiency of the Philippine military, especially in waging urban warfare, according to a regional security expert, as well as the possibility of more fighters joining the rebellion as the credibility of Isnilon Hapilon, the group’s appointed regional leader, is enhanced.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/09/01/1734851/duterte-contradicts-earlier-statement-bomb-marawi-mosque

Philippines Prepares ‘Big Battle’ to Liberate City Held by Islamic State-Linked Militants

August 29, 2017

But Manila faces mammoth rebuild and a risk of violence spreading across region

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Buildings in Marawi, The Philippines, show the intensity of the months-long battle to re-take the town from Islamic State influenced terrorists

Aug. 29, 2017 8:13 a.m. ET

Nearly 100 days since Islamic State-linked militants occupied the southern Philippine city of Marawi, the army says it is planning a final assault to end a battle that took Manila and allied countries by surprise for its stubbornness and violence.

If successful, the operation will allow the tens of thousands of residents who fled to return home. But counterterrorism experts and humanitarian workers say the government faces a mammoth task of rebuilding a devastated city and risks further attacks elsewhere by newly-energized terrorists.

Military Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told reporters Monday that the army is preparing “one big battle” to retake Marawi after clearing the city’s Grand Mosque and municipal police station last week. He didn’t give details.

On Tuesday, reflecting international concern about the spread of violence throughout the region, Australia offered to deploy special forces soldiers to the southern Philippines to provide training and tactical advice. The U.S. already maintains a similar detachment as part of its global counterterrorism operations.

Related

  • Islamic State-Linked Militants Dump Bodies in Southern Philippines City (May 28, 2017)
  • Philippines Struggles to Suppress ISIS-Linked Rebels as Foreign Fighters Found (June 1, 2017)
  • Philippines Extends Martial Law in Mindanao (July 22, 2017)

Reclaiming the city of 200,000 has been an uphill battle for the ill-equipped Philippine military, which is unused to urban warfare. Its failure to end the conflict swiftly and the use of destructive airstrikes have alienated the population, many of whom as Muslims feel marginalized in the Roman Catholic-majority country.

Samira Gutoc—a former negotiator for peace talks between the government and more-traditional rebel groups, who now serves as a humanitarian worker—said the extent of the damage, with as much as 90% of the city destroyed, has led some youngsters to call the militants heroes. “We are creating another generation of angry, young, restless, jobless, alienated kids,” Ms. Gutoc said.

A coalition of extremist Islamist groups, who for years existed as rival religious or criminal gangs, joined forces to occupy Marawi on May 23, riding on trucks and waving the black Islamic State flag. The military estimates about 40 remain in Marawi and that 600 have been killed. About 130 soldiers and 45 civilians, some of whom were beheaded, have also died.

The Philippine government said the coalition, under the leadership of  brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, sought to declare its intent to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state. The occupation shocked the government and martial law has been declared in the area until year-end. The assault began after a failed attempt by authorities to arrest an allied militant leader. The remaining fighters occupy an area about 500 square meters (5,382 square feet) in size, the military says.

While religious leaders have condemned the militancy, Philippine officials say a small number of residents in Marawi and surrounding areas allied with the militants during the battle, including a former city mayor. Scholars say the Maute family has entrenched itself in the long-restive region, leveraging on old family and tribal loyalties.

Even if the military succeeds in reclaiming Marawi, the aftermath is likely to be just as difficult, analysts say. An unknown number of militants have escaped the city, officials believe. Others have been arrested as they fled. The Maute brothers themselves are unaccounted for. Their father, Cayamora Maute, who backed his sons, died in custody Sunday of medical complications, officials said. They didn’t specify a cause of death, but told local media he was suffering from diabetes, hypertension and hepatitis.

“I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to see some of the fighters disperse into other areas,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. Ms. Jones said she expects to see attacks in other parts of the Philippines, along with the danger that surviving fighters could create a regional training center for aspiring jihadists.

Cayamora Maute, the father of two brothers whose Maute group of Islamist militants led the seizure of Marawi city, gestures inside a police station after his arrest in Davao city, southern Philippines, June 6.Photo: Reuters

There is also the risk of violence spreading to other parts of Southeast Asia, such as neighboring Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Several killed in Marawi were foreigners, including Indonesians. The Maute-led group is believed by officials to be in contact with Islamic State leadership in the Middle East, and it appears to have received direct funding, according to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. Social media has helped the militants promote their cause across borders.

For most of Marawi, future prospects remain bleak. Save The Children, a charity, said this month more than half of the 60,000 children who fled the fighting haven’t re-enrolled in school. The military says many residents are unable to return due to improvised explosive devices placed in the city by the militants.

The government has provided temporary accommodation, relief supplies, medical vaccinations and other services to those displaced. Local and national authorities have sought to bring Muslim leaders and law enforcement together to discuss post-battle security and President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has sought to accelerate a long-stalled peace process with larger, older rebel groups in the south.

Ms. Gutoc said this week students at a university in Marawi, one of the few institutions to reopen, would fly kites to mark the 100th day since the conflict began. It will be a somber occasion.

“After three months [of conflict] it’s really devastating,” said Ms. Gutoc, whose own house has been damaged in the conflict. “The frustration is at its highest.”

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at jake.watts@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/philippines-prepares-big-battle-to-liberate-city-held-by-islamic-state-linked-militants-1504008838

Australia offers to train Philippine troops in IS fight

August 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Philippine Marines taking cover from sniper fire while on patrol at the frontline in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia Tuesday offered to help train the Philippines military to tackle Islamic militants terrorising parts of the country, calling the threat “deeply concerning”.Philippine forces have been besieging militants in the southern city of Marawi for almost 100 days. But the gunmen, flying the Islamic State group’s black flag, have defied military assaults including airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Australia, which has an extensive defence cooperation program with Manila, has already deployed two high-tech AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance, and is keen to provide further help.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she recently spoke to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who wanted to bolster resources for his armed forces.

“We would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training,” she said.

“We indicated what we have been doing in Iraq. I went through with the president in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting.”

Australia is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

Bishop said it was “deeply concerning” for the entire Asian region that Islamic State had a presence in the southern Philippines, with the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia also offering support.

Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao island, home to 20 million people, on May 23 immediately after fighters flying the IS flag rampaged through Marawi.

Their assault on the city ignited an unprecedented urban war, which Duterte has warned is part of an IS campaign to establish a base in Mindanao.

Philippine President Duterte Admits He Cannot Win The “War On Drugs” — But he vowed to pursue his campaign against drugs despite the seeming hopelessness of the effort.

August 25, 2017
President Duterte, in combat gear, holds an assault rifle during his third visit to Marawi City on Thursday. AP

DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – It won him the presidency but left thousands of criminals and innocents dead. Now ending the drug menace has become a crusade President Duterte has admitted he cannot win.

Nangako ako that I will do away with the shabu. Ngayon, alam ko na na hindi ito matutupad, na hindi talaga matapos ‘to (I promised that I will do away with shabu. Now I know it won’t be fulfilled, that this really will not end),” Duterte told soldiers in Marawi on Thursday afternoon.

But he vowed to pursue his campaign against drugs despite the seeming hopelessness of the effort.

He appealed to the public that he be given another chance to work in the remaining five years of his administration to make life more comfortable for Filipinos.

“Let us try to create a country that is – huwag naman ‘yung mayaman na tayo lahat (not where all of us are rich) – a country that is comfortable. May five years pa ako. Give me a chance to work ulit,” the President said.

Duterte admitted his administration is facing a host of problems, but he said with the cooperation of the people, it would be able to surmount all the challenges and make the country progressive.

“Pretend that I am doing well. Just give me the remaining years. Five years pa naman. And we will build a strong country and a strong Armed Forces and police,” he said.

Duterte said he is doing everything to bring about change – especially rid the  government of graft and corruption – a problem that has remained rampant among state officials and personnel.

“Basta dito, tabla tabla. Walang corruption, pati mga military din at pulis. At ‘yan ang maasahan ninyo, lahat ng pera na ano, makikita ninyo babalik sa tao ‘yun. Nagcha-charge (charge) nang charge na sila (Rest assured, here everything is fair, no corruption even in the military and the police. You can count on it. You will see – you’ll get back your money. They’re being charged),” he said, referring to corrupt officials.

He said that while corruption is an unavoidable phenomenon in a bureaucracy, it can be restrained and minimized.

The President said that there are really those who are corrupt.

“Merong mga corrupt, hindi na talaga natin maalis ‘yan… And ‘yung sabi na ‘extrajudicial killings’ wala na tayong magawa niyan, lalo na ang pulis (Yes, there are corrupt. We can’t totally get rid of them. And about extradjudicial killings – we can’t do anything about it, especially the police),” he pointed out.

Duterte reiterated he would protect policemen doing their duty.

“In the performance of your duty, which means that everything has to be legal. I will protect you, kayong mga pulis. Trabaho lang kayo. At kung lumaban, basta in the performance of duty, ’yun na ’yun. Just for three minutes. Pardon me for saying it, but ang pulis kasi is ’yung interface niya sa tao. But I don’t know hindi ako – basta ito,” he said.

The President likewise described how a confrontation between government forces and their enemies or even the criminals should unfold.

He said law enforcers or soldiers should ask suspected offenders to drop their weapon so they could be arrested.

“Then you have to go near him because kung inaaresto mo, kailangan dalhin mo sa korte (if you arrest him you have to take him to court) or to the police station,” the President said.

http://www.philstar.com:8080/headlines/2017/08/26/1732881/rody-admits-i-cant-end-shabu-menace

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