Posts Tagged ‘Maute’

Philippines Faces Steep Task Rebuilding City Wrested From Islamic Militants

December 10, 2017

Battle for Marawi left southern city ruined and residents displaced, fueling fears of new Islamic insurgency if government doesn’t hold to promises

Part of the Grand Mosque in the southern Philippine city of Marawi was heavily damaged by more than five months of intense airstrikes and firefights between government troops and Islamic State-inspired militants.

MARAWI, Philippines—The Philippine military scored a victory against international extremism when it drove Islamic State-linked fighters from this city in October, but that success is now in peril as the government discovers as many pitfalls in rebuilding Marawi as in liberating it.

The city was decimated in the battle, fought over five months with U.S. surveillance support. The government is now turning to the task of rebuilding and resettling nearly 400,000 people displaced by the fighting, while it pushes for new legislation that would give greater autonomy to marginalized Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, the Philippines’ southernmost main island, in the hope of deterring future conflict.

How it meets those challenges, residents and community leaders say, will determine whether the victory in Marawi can be a springboard to longer-term peace or end up providing new fervor for an insurgency inspired by Islamic State.

A Philippine government soldier inspecting the destruction caused in Marawi by months of heavy fighting between the military and Islamic militants.

The rebuilding process is beginning to fray before new bricks are laid, as sentiment turns against the government for what many residents see as its heavy-handed use of airstrikes in the campaign to recapture Marawi.

“We hate ISIS, but we also know the one who destroyed our homes, our properties, is the military, by using the airstrikes,” said Agakhan Sharief, a Muslim leader who served as an intermediary in unsuccessful talks between the militants and the government. “If they don’t fulfill what they have promised to the victims of Marawi city, [residents] could be turning to more radicalization.”

Officials say Islamist groups are already seeking to recruit young men from the many refugee camps crowded with people who lost their livelihoods in the battle.

Government soldiers in trucks last month examine the damage caused by months of fighting in the city of Marawi.

The cramped conditions in the camps feed frustration. Fever and flu are rampant and jobs are scarce. Each family is given either an outdoor tent or a tight space in a hall, separated from the next family by a thin piece of shoulder-high plywood. While food and water are provided, privacy is impossible. Many residents own nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled.

Much of Marawi remains closed as soldiers sweep for improvised explosives. The city was attacked on May 23 by hundreds of militants funded and inspired by Islamic State, who were joined by dozens of foreign fighters seeking to declare a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom. At least 165 Philippine security personnel and 47 civilians died in the ensuing battle, as well as nearly 1,000 militants.

Aerial bombardment left the city in ruins. The worst-hit area is almost devoid of life, save for wild dogs and mosquitoes. Every building has been severely damaged, with the belongings of former residents strewn on roadsides and hanging from windows.

Some people have been allowed to return to the few reopened parts of the city, only to find rubble where their homes used to be.

Hadj Esmail M. Abaton, 77, returned to his house in late November to find almost everything destroyed. The metal roof had fallen in, charred belongings dotted the floor and broken furniture was rusting away. Like most Marawi residents, the former textiles trader had no insurance.

“When we saw the house we cried because all of our effort and all our belongings are gone,” he said, flanked by four generations of relatives who lived in the house with him. “This is not just a house. This is our roots and all our hard work.”

While Mr. Abaton said he didn’t know who was responsible for destroying his house, his younger relatives blame the military. Found in the rubble were the remains of an artillery shell, a weapon used by the Philippine armed forces but not the militants.

Maisara Palala, 70, resting last month with her disabled son, Tao, 30, inside their makeshift shelter at an evacuation center in the town of Pantar outside Marawi.

A spokesman for the military didn’t directly address queries about public opinion or the airstrikes. The military has defended its use of airstrikes, noting the high-risk nature of close-quarters urban warfare.

Many displaced citizens lack documentation proving ownership of their land and worry it will be taken away when the city is rebuilt, though the government has assured them of fair treatment. Even if they can lay claim to their former homes, the process will take longer than many think, officials say. Millions of tons of rubble will need clearing, a dangerous task in light of the unexploded ordnance and improvised explosives left in structures.

“The reconstruction will take years,” said Felix Castro, a retired general now charged by the government with coordinating reconstruction. “It is very difficult considering the rubble. This is why the civilians are not allowed to return.”

In an interview in the bullet-strafed remains of Marawi’s Grand Mosque, Mr. Castro said the government hasn’t worked out how much the process will cost, though some estimates place it at up to $1.8 billion. He said a master plan for the city’s reconstruction is expected by March. The U.S. has promised $14.5 million in rehabilitation aid.

Dsiplaced Marawi residents living last month under cramped conditions in a makeshift evacuation center in Balo-i, north of Marawi.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,200 temporary shelters are being built for displaced people and more than 2,700 permanent houses are planned, to be funded by an undisclosed private donation.

Some residents say the government failed to heed warnings that the militants’ offensive was looming, such as local radio broadcasts warning of an attack and text messages militants sent urging their families to take shelter. There are signs the government was aware of the threat but didn’t adequately prepare to confront it. In December 2016, more than five months before the battle, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a show of bravado, told a business conference the militants “said that they will go down upon Marawi to burn the place, and I said: ‘go ahead, do it.’”

The government’s spokesman didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Recent reports from human-rights groups about soldiers torturing or executing civilians have further fanned hostility toward the liberators. The military said it welcomes any probe and doesn’t tolerate rights violations.

Some displaced Marawi residents working last month to build temporary shelters outside the city.

Underlying this broad distrust are decades of marginalization of the minority Muslim population of the southern Philippines by successive governments, including the colonial authorities of Spain and the U.S., which governed the country successively for about 350 years.

That experience spawned dozens of separatist groups before the recent wave of violent extremists inspired by Islamic State. Once-violent older groups that have rejected the extremists, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, have sought peace in exchange for autonomous government.

An agreement on self-rule for the small majority-Muslim part of the country has been reached, but the Philippine Congress has been slow to pass the necessary legislation. MILF leaders warn they could lose control over their fighters if the legislation doesn’t pass.

The battle with Islamic State-linked groups has moved to marshlands south of Marawi, where MILF and government troops are allied in a firefight against militants who either didn’t join the battle in Marawi or escaped it.

Mr. Duterte has urged lawmakers to move fast on the legislation granting self-rule to the Muslim regions. If it doesn’t pass soon, he said in October, “we are headed for trouble.”

A government soldier takes in Marawi’s destruction.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at


Trump, Fellow Populist Duterte to Meet as U.S.-Philippine Relations Improve

November 12, 2017

Two leaders to discuss renewal of U.S.-Philippines alliance

MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte meets Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump, carrying with him a longstanding animosity toward America that has been tempered by Mr. Trump’s implicit support of his war on drugs and by U.S. help in crushing Islamic State-backed fighters who occupied a southern city.

The firebrand Filipino lobbed repeated verbal attacks at the U.S. when he took office in June 2016, swiftly clashing with then-President Barack Obama on human-rights issues. Relations improved under Mr. Trump, who…

Islamic State in Southeast Asia Leader Identified

November 6, 2017
Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco has assumed the position of “emir” or chieftain of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Southeast Asia wing, according to an arrested Indonesian comrade.

MANILA, Philippines — Extremist militant Amin Baco, a Malaysian, assumed the leadership of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia after Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon was neutralized in Marawi, police said.

“Amin Baco has replaced Isnilon Hapilon as leader in Southeast Asia,” Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa revealed at Monday’s televised press briefing.

Citing information from arrested suspected terrorist Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, Dela Rosa said that Baco is leading, “not only the remaining stragglers [from the Marawi siege], but the rest of the Southeast Asia ISIS group.”

The police chief said that they also have received information that Baco has left the main battle area, but he stressed that the police has yet to verify it. “That is still raw information,” Dela Rosa said.

The government forces have been on the lookout of Baco since November 3.

Abu Sayyaf leader Hapilon and Omar Maute were designated as leaders of a joint coalition of Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Southeast Asia that laid siege on Marawi City, in May this year.

The group has been identified as an affiliate of a weakening Islamic State in the Middle East.

Both Hapilon and Maute were killed by military troops on October 16.

Syahputra was drone operator

On Monday, Dela Rosa also presented arrested Syahputra to the media. He was nabbed by authorities on November 1, and was placed under the custody of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on November 2.

Dela Rosa said that, upon investigation, Syahputra admitted to have worked with Baco.

He said Syahputra admitted to operating five drones for “intelligence purposes, surveillance of government troops.”

“He is drone operator because he was claiming to be an I.T. graduate so he can join the ISIS,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa, however, refused to divulge more information the police received due to the sensitive nature of the interrogation.

Marawi City in the country’s south was left in ruins following the six-month urban battle between state forces and Islamic militants. The government is faced with the complicated task of rebuilding the city as displaced residents and businesses try to return to normalcy.

Philippines: Fears of another Marawi as Islamic State militants regroup, plan suicide bombings

November 5, 2017

By Amy Chew
Channel News Asia

In the first of a three-part series on the changing security situation in the southern Philippines, Channel NewsAsia’s Amy Chew looks at the possibility that Islamic extremists could be regrouping to fight new battles.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Government soldiers stand in front of damaged houses and buildings in Marawi city, Philippines, Oct 25, 2017. (Photo: Reuters / Romeo Ranoco)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines: It was mid-morning when two cars suddenly drove up and parked next to each other outside Notre Dame University, one of the oldest universities in Cotabato City.

Eight to 10 young men came out of the cars. One of them draped the black flag of Islamic State (IS) behind his back and walked up and down the street together with his friends.

“It was like a parade to show off the flag. People stopped to stare at them,” a local resident who witnessed the incident told Channel NewsAsia.

“The parade lasted about 10 minutes before they returned to their cars and drove off,” said the resident, who declined to be named.

The incident last month unnerved the community and left people worried that pro-IS groups on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines may be trying to stage another Marawi-style attack to take over a city.

“I must plan for an exit strategy, like get a job in another city in case the worst happens,” said the resident.

On May 23, pro-IS groups led by the Maute Group, founded by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, and Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) attacked Marawi, located some 155km away from Cotabato City.

It took the Philippine military five months before it could seize control of the city from the militants on Oct 17.

Image may contain: 3 people

Philippine marines from the Marine Battalion Landing Team stand to attention during their arrival from Marawi at port area in metro Manila, Philippines October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

The siege killed more than 1,100 people, including 920 militants, 47 civilians and 165 troops, and displaced another 400,000 people.

Both Maute brothers and Isnilon were also killed.

But that has not ended the battle against militants in the region as those who have escaped have raised concerns where they have resettled. Among those cities where militants have sought refuge is the southern city of Cotabato.


Concerns about the threat of spreading violence in the southern Philippines have been raised across the region, with comments from Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam typical of what has been said.

“You’ve got the situation in Marawi, you’ve got the situation in Rakhine State (in Myanmar), and it’s going to attract fighters, extremists, would-be terrorists to go to these places to fight,” he said in September. “And once they come to this region, then they will try to spread out to other targets too,” he added.

Analysts believe that while the situation in Marawi has been brought under control by the Philippine military, the threat is far from over.

“Cotabato City is in serious trouble. It is badly infiltrated by pro-IS groups,” said Professor Rommel Banlaoi, head of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“Many of the (IS) escapees from Marawi, including one Maute brother, are being sheltered in Cotabato City where they are actively recruiting new recruits,” Prof Banlaoi added.

The Marawi siege exposed the depth of IS penetration into southern Philippines, where it plans to set up a Southeast Asia caliphate.

Former Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants told Channel NewsAsia in an interview that Mindanao is the only place in ASEAN where IS can carve out a wilayat, or province, given its porous borders, large ungoverned spaces and abundant guns, ammunitions and explosive materials available for sale in the black market.


“The pro-IS groups are trying to stage another Marawi-style attack in other cities. They have lots of money to fund more attacks as they looted billions of pesos from Marawi during the siege,” a senior security source told Channel NewsAsia.

Residents of Marawi typically do not trust banks and many of them stash their cash in vaults kept in their homes, according to the source.

“The money was looted from the vaults installed in the homes of individuals and there were many of them,” the source added.

Image may contain: outdoor

Bombed-out buildings in Marawi after the siege AFP/TED ALJIBE

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said IS gave the Maute group at least US$1.5 million for the Marawi siege.

As IS loses territory in the Middle East, its funds are expected to dwindle and some believe it will not have the same resources to fund attacks in Philippines.

But according to the security source, money and weapons looted from the Marawi siege are “more than enough” for IS groups to stage terror attacks in the Philippines.

“IS groups have more than enough money. They also receive funds from wealthy individuals in the country. Not only that, they also looted weapons from Marawi so they do have weapons as well,” the security source added.

While it would be difficult for the IS groups to take over an entire city like in Marawi, they have the capacity to take over parts of a city, according to the security source.

“I also expect IS-inspired lone wolves to target Metro Manila for attacks,” the source added.


Inside buildings abandoned by IS militants in Marawi city, the military is finding a treasure trove of information on terror plots outlined in documents left behind by the militants.

“I am looking at three major scenarios based on confiscated documents found in various buildings in Marawi city,” said Prof Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“One of the activities they (IS) want is to promote suicide bombings by lone wolves, the use of IEDS (improvised explosive device) and the use of fire bombs,” added Prof Banlaoi.

“The targets for attacks are Davao City, the hometown of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to send a message of “retaliation,” he said. “The other targets are the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City and Zamboanga.”

Apart from recruitment, IS groups are also focusing on conducting training, particularly for bomb-making, he said.


As urban dwellers brace for possible IS-inspired attacks, heavy clashes are taking place in the jungle marshlands in Maguindanao province between IS and the military.

Maguindanao is located just outside of Cotabato city. The military has joined forces with its former enemy, the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest armed group in Mindanao, to fight against the IS groups.

Abi, a MILF fighter, spent one month in the jungles fighting 500 IS militants in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao province from 3 Sep to Oct 2.

He described the IS fighters as “very well-trained and well-armed.”

“There were many IS fighters and they were very well-trained, well-armed and well-organised. They had many guns, ammunitions, explosives and bombs. They rigged a large area with bombs,” said Abi, shaking his head with disbelief as he recounted his experience.

“These IS fighters are experts in making bombs. They also had snipers,” said Abi as he sat beneath a tree on the outskirts of Cotabato City. He also saw fighters as young as 13 years old.

“The fighters were dressed in black and sported long beards and long hair. They flew the black flags of IS in their area,” said Abi.

Image may contain: outdoor

Graffiti is seen on a wall of a back-alley as government soldiers continue their assault against the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines in June. (File photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

“Every single fighter had a bullet-proof vest on … they must have a lot of money to be able to afford those vests,” said Abi.

As he was speaking, Abi threw a quick look around his surroundings.

“IS spies are everywhere. There are many of them. One needs to be careful,” he said.

“IS is offering people 100,000 pesos (US$1,950) to join them. They also promised new recruits they would get a monthly allowance of 30,000 pesos,” said Abi. “Many people on Mindanao island have been recruited by them.”

According to the military, clashes in Datu Salibo erupted on Aug 2 when the pro-IS Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tried to hoist the black flag of IS in the area.

BIFF is a splinter group of MILF.

“Heavy fighting ensued. Air support was also called in,” Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Besana, Joint Task Force Central spokesman, told Channel NewsAsia.

“Fifty one BIFF members were killed … while the MILF lost 20 men,” said Besana. While there is a lull in military operations, the battle is not yet over. “We expect operations to resume within the next 15 days,” Besana added.


The participation of MILF in the fight against terrorism in Mindanao has provided crucial mass support, said Prof Banlaoi.

“And having the MILF on your side is already a good advantage. They provide military support, intelligence support, they know the terrain, they know people in the terrain as they are fighting their former brothers,” he added.

According to Prof Banlaoi, at least 21 militant groups have pledged allegiance to IS.  Of the 21, four are deemed to be the most dangerous.

The four are:

  • Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
  • Abu Sayyaf Group faction previously led by the late Isnilon Hapilon
  • Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM)
  • Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP)

As IS territories began to crumble in the Middle East, the global terror group called on its followers to make their way to the southern Philippines, the new land of jihad.

Malaysian police have arrested at least five men for attempting to travel to southern Philippines to join the pro-IS faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

“To date, we have arrested one Malaysian, two Indonesians, two Bangladeshis who tried to make their way to southern Philippines to join the pro-IS faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, head of counter-terrorism division of Special Branch, told Channel NewsAsia.

Special Branch is the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysian Police.

And while more suspected extremists are being held, there are claims that new destinations are in the spotlight.

Indonesian Ali Fauzi, a former MILF fighter and member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the terror network behind the 2002 Bali bombings, told Channel NewsAsia, Indonesians were heading for Zamboanga city and Basilan island in southern Philippines.

“I’ve heard that a group is heading towards Zamboanga, Basilan island and its surrounding area,” Fauzi told Channel NewsAsia.

“They (militants) feel much safer there as many locals will protect them,” he said.

Source: CNA/ac


The main battle area in the southern city of Marawi on Oct. 25, after the Philippines’s military proclaimed the fighting over against militants backed by the Islamic State. CreditTed Aljibe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

See also:

Unexpected Benefits From a Battle Against ISIS

At source:

Philippine mobile phone trader ‘collected funds’ for Marawi attackers to finance pro-Islamic State militants

October 27, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine security forces have arrested a mobile phone trader suspected of collecting funds to help finance pro-Islamic State militants who took over a southern city for five months, police said on Friday.

Image may contain: outdoor

Damaged houses, buildings and a mosque are seen inside Marawi city, Philippines, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Rasdi Malawani, 42, was paraded in front of the press a day after security forces raided his home in Manila’s northern suburbs, where a rocket-propelled grenade and a pistol were seized, Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said.

Malawani was not allowed to speak to reporters and no defense lawyer was present.

The military on Monday declared victory over the Maute group, which seized control in Marawi City on May 23, after killing the last 40 remaining militants.

More than 1,100 people, including 165 soldiers, were killed in the conflict.

Malawani is the brother-in-law of Maddie Maute, one of the Maute brothers who planned and carried out the Marawi attacks, according to police. They said he had given about 300,000 pesos ($5,800) a month for four months to his sister, Lily.

The funds were collected from dozens of tenants of Salaam Bazaar, a mobile phone, accessories and electronic market owned by Farhana Maute, the jailed family matriarch, in a shopping mall in Quezon City, police said. Malawani had been running the business for her.

“He is facilitating terrorist financing,” Albayalde said. “He is based here in Manila and is not involved in the fighting. He is considered a supporter and sympathizer.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech before an association of professionals late on Thursday, warned of possible retaliation from militants after the military’s victory in Marawi.

“Retaliation and vengeance are not far-fetched,” Duterte said. “May I just remind you to be vigilant and always be aware that extremism is the problem of the planet today.”

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said on Monday Islamist militants who attacked Marawi on May 23 had received some $1.5 million from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in January.

($1 = 52 pesos)

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie

Fact check: Philippine President Duterte’s claims on US and Chinese aid to military (Sounds like fentanyl talking)

October 23, 2017
One of the military first battalions to be deployed in the besieged southern city of Marawi board a military truck as they arrive to a hero’s welcome at Villamor Air Base Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The military has begun to scale down their forces in Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte declared its liberation following the killings of the militant leaders after five months of military offensive. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte thanked the US, China and Israel for providing military assistance for the clearing operations in Marawi City.

In his speech before the 43rd Philippine Business Conference and Expo concluding ceremony, Duterte revealed that the sniper rifle that killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was made in China.

Duterte said that the bulk of four planeloads of rifles that government troops used in war-torn Marawi came from China.

“It was only China who gave it on time and plenty,” Duterte said.

The president, meanwhile, said that the equipment provided by the US was only borrowed and were already returned.

“So I said, the countries helped us. China. We needed it badly, you gave it to us. Thank you very much and President Xi Jinping. And of course the Americans just provided the — we just borrowed it, we have returned it already,” the president said.

“They are not willing to give it to us unlike China,” he added.

At least P2.84 billion in US assistance

Despite Duterte’s claims that Washington was not willing to give arms to the country, the US provided a major grant of arms and munitions worth at least P250 million last May, about the same time the conflict in Marawi started.

“In May 2017, a major grant of 200 Glock pistols, 300 M4 carbines, 100 grenade launchers, four mini-guns and individual operator gear worth P250 million was delivered,” US Embassy press attache Molly Koscina told

Koscina also noted that the unmanned aerial vehicle system that the US delivered earlier this year was used in Marawi.

“In January 2017, the U.S. delivered a Raven tactical UAV system worth P60 million which was first tested by the AFP during Balikatan and then used in Marawi,” she said.

Aside from these, the US also provided 25 combat rubber raiding craft and 30 outboard motors worth P250 million to support the Philippine Marine Corps in its counter-terror efforts.

In July, the US officially turned over two C-208 Cessna aircraft worth P1.6 billion to the Philippine Air Force. The surveillance aircraft were used to help in fighting against ISIS-inspired militants in Marawi City.

In August, Washington transferred a radar system to the Philippine Navy, which would enhance its maritime surveillance capabilities.

All of the above mentioned were major grants of the US to the Philippines, disputing Duterte’s remarks that the equipment were only borrowed.

China admitting own aid to Philippine military ‘not that big’

In late June, China turned over P370 million ($7.3 million) worth of military assistance to the Philippines in a ceremony led by President Duterte, whose antipathy toward the Philippines’ traditional ally, the United States, is well known.

Duterte, who has pushed for a policy of rapprochement with China, presided over a turnover of 3,000 rifles and 6 million pieces of ammunition.

While significant on its own given the previous administration’s less cordial approach toward Beijing—Manila’s rival claimant over the South China Sea—it was also aware that the amount of assistance it provided was relatively small.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua was quoted as saying the amount was “not that big.”

In comparison, the US provided an average of P3 billion (around $60 million) in grant funding to the Philippine military in the previous five years. The amount included weapons, upgrades and training assistance.

On October 5, meanwhile, China turned over a second batch of military equipment composed of 3,000 units of rifles, 30 sniper cones and 3 million rounds of ammunition.

Assistance to Marawi rehabilitation

As for its support for Task Force Bangon Marawi, the US government made available $14.3 million or about P730 million to directly assist with ongoing emergency relief operations and the longer term recovery of Marawi and surrounding areas.

“With $3 million in Humanitarian Assistance, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is working with humanitarian organizations on the ground to deliver critical relief supplies such as safe drinking water, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, shelter materials to improve the conditions in evacuation centers and in host families, and programs to protect displaced women and children,” the US Embassy said.

At the same time, approximately $11.3 million will be used to support the early recovery, stabilization and rehabilitation of Marawi and the surrounding areas.

This includes restoration of basic public services such as health care, water and electricity, jumpstart livelihoods, revitalize the economy, and promote community reconciliation and alternatives to violent extremism.

Image result for USAID, humanitarian, photos, philippines

FILE photo

Aside from the financial grant, the USAID has delivered 12,00 water containers and nearly 100,000 chlorine tablets for safe drinking water to families in evacuation centers. These were delivered upon requests from the Departments of Education and Health.

The USAID had also provided 6,500 desks for temporary schools and psycho-social support for affected teachers and students, according to the US Embassy.

The Philippine government is now shifting its focus to the rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi as the fighting in the war-torn city has ended.

“There are no more militants in Marawi City,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

RELATED: How other countries helped regain Marawi


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.


‘Strong’ Philippine priest smiles after IS hostage ordeal ends

September 18, 2017


© 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

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

September 18, 2017
Image may contain: 5 people
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.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, outdoor and nature

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:

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click:

(Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)