Philippines fighting Terrorism in their Homeland
The Maute group confronting the Philippine army in Marawi City is no longer considered a local terrorist organization as it has been reinforced by jihadists of Malaysian, Indonesian and “other nationalities,” the country’s authorities have announced.
“Before it was just a local terrorist group.
But now they have subscribed to the ideology of ISIS. They want to make Mindanao as part of the caliphate,” Solicitor General Jose Calida told a news conference, according to Reuters.
He added that Indonesians and Malaysians are among the Islamist radicals who are fighting the army. Meanwhile, an army spokesman said six foreigners were killed in Mindanao on Thursday, including militants of Malaysian, Indonesian and “other nationalities.”
“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens” but “has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria,” Calida added, as cited by InterAksyon news.
Helicopters circled the city, peppering Maute positions with machine gun fire to try to force them from a bridge vital to retaking Marawi, a mainly Muslim city of 200,000 where fighters had torched and seized a school, a jail and a cathedral, and took more than a dozen hostages.
“Our troops are doing deliberate operations in areas we believe are still occupied or infested with the terrorist presence,” Brigadier General Rolly Bautista said.
The battles with the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, started on Tuesday during a failed raid by security forces on one of the group’s hideouts that spiralled into chaos.
The turmoil was the final straw for President Rodrigo Duterte, who on Tuesday delivered on his longstanding threat to impose martial law on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island and home to around 22 million people, to stop the spread of radical Islam.
“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said on Wednesday. “If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”
As details of the attack in Marawi City emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the ISIS group in Syria and Iraq.
Plumes of black smoke rose in the distance and two air force helicopters could be seen flying over the city centre.
Although much of the city was sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.
Mr Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded.
Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said the militants erected IS flags at several locations.
Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.