Hundreds of people have fled the Philippines’ southern city of Marawi as military forces fight to drive Takfiri militants out of the city.
Foreign militants from Indonesia and Malaysia are recruited by a militant group engaged in battles with the Philippine army in Maraqi, on Mindanao Island, Manila’s Solicitor-General Jose Calida said on Friday, in a rare admission of links between domestic and foreign militants belonging to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island, to stop the spread of Takfiri militancy. He recently revealed that Daesh had planned to establish a permanent base in the southern Philippines and the country was at risk of “contamination.” Daesh is mainly operating in Syria and Iraq.
Daesh has apparently been attempting to exploit the poverty and lawlessness in the southern Philippines to establish a base in Southeast Asia for its Wahhabi extremist ideology.
Malaysian and Indonesian nationals were among six people who were killed on Thursday in battles between the army and the militants in Marawi.
The Philippine army has sent attack helicopters and Special Forces to drive the militants out of the southern city of 200,000 people. A total of 11 soldiers and 31 militants have reportedly been killed in the fighting so far.
“Our troops are doing deliberate operations in areas we believe are still occupied or infested with the terrorists’ presence. I specifically ordered our soldiers to locate and destroy these terrorists as soon as possible,” said Brig. Gen. Rolly Bautista, the head of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan.
Another military commander, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., called on locals to help locate the militants and “contribute to the neutralization of these agents of deaths and destruction.”
A raid was conducted on Tuesday to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a radical faction of a militant group, Abu Sayyaf. The government says Hapilon has been the point man for Daesh in the Philippines and has been collaborating with the leaders of Maute, another militant group.
Calida said Daesh had chosen Hapilon as “their emir, or leader in the Philippines.”
Daesh now in Philippines
Referring to the Maute groups, Calida further said, “Before it was just a local terrorist group. But now they have subscribed to the ideology of ISIS (Daesh).”
Calida said the Maute terrorists “want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate,” referring to shrinking territory in Iraq and Syria that Daesh has overrun.
Maute was blamed for a bombing in President Duterte’s home city of Davao in September last year, which killed 14 people and wounded dozens.