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‘100 foreign Islamic militants slipped into Mindanao’

In a screen grab from RTVM, President Duterte lifts his shirt to show his gun tucked in his waistband during his speech at the 50th founding anniversary of Davao del Norte yesterday.
 

MANILA, Philippines -  Some 100 foreign Islamic militants – mostly Indonesians – have slipped into the country in groups to help Maute terrorists fight government forces in Marawi City.

“They entered the country in batches through the southern backdoor,” a source told The STAR, referring to Mindanao. Some of the fighters were from the Middle East, the source added.

The foreign militants, the source said, penetrated the tight maritime security cordon around the Sulu Sea, jointly set in place by the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He said the entry points of the foreign jihadists were Palawan, Tawi-Tawi and the Davao gulf area.

The arrival of the militants, according to the source, may have been prompted by Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s call on sympathizers around the globe to proceed to the Philippines instead of to the Middle East so they could help the besieged Maute terrorists in Marawi.

Another source revealed that the Philippines’ close coordination with Malaysian and Indonesian authorities may have limited the arrival of foreign militants.

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“A series of anti-terror operations in Malaysia and Indonesia foiled the IS plot to flood Mindanao with their volunteer-fighters,” he said.

President Duterte earlier linked the Maute gunmen to the Middle East-based IS. It was one of his justifications to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.

The military earlier reported killing eight foreign terrorists in the Marawi fighting.

In Lanao del Sur, there were reports some Maranao clans angered by the Maute group’s depredation in Marawi were plotting revenge against the Mautes – possibly targeting even relatives of siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute.

The brothers were founders of the Dawlah Islamiya, originally a small jihadist group the military would conveniently name Maute based on their surname.

“They want these two members of the Maute clan dead and they might even resort to attacking their relatives just to get even with what they have done to Marawi,” said an ethnic Maranao mayor in the first district of Lanao del Sur.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command, confirmed to The STAR yesterday the alleged revenge plot.

“I am appealing to victims of the Marawi conflict to remain sober and to refrain from taking the law into their hands. We have duly constituted authorities there to deal with them. All we need is public cooperation in building criminal cases against the culprits and voluntary assistance in tracking them down,” Galvez said.

A vice mayor, whose town is not too distant from Butig, the hometown of the Maute family, said the previous Aquino administration was to blame for the rise of the Dawlah Islamiya.

“Authorities under president Aquino did not act on our reports about the gradual emergence then of a small group of Islamic militants bragging about their connections with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It was in late 2014 that we started reporting this group to them,” the official who declined to be named said.

Members of the Lanao del Sur League of Mayors said even while the Dawlah Islamiya was still a fledgling group, siblings Omar and Abdullah were already showing their ruthlessness to police and suspected military collaborators.

It was Dawlah Islamiya gunmen who killed in an ambush in Marawi City in September 2016 Insp. Darangina Ditucalan, chief of the Poona Bayabao municipal police, just as he was to start prosecuting a scion of a local clan identified with the group for a criminal offense.

Three ambulant fish vendors, two of them Maranaos, were also shot dead later in different towns near Butig on mere suspicion they were spying on the Maute brothers for the military.

Militants were also tagged as being behind the ambush of a convoy of soldiers near the campus of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City in 2015. The ambush was reportedly in retaliation for the killing of their companions by units of the Army’s 103rd Brigade. Three soldiers were killed in the attack, pulled off in broad daylight.

“They also had more than 20 other deadly gun attacks in Marawi City and nearby towns from 2014 to 2016. Some of the victims were military intelligence agents,” a local official told The STAR.

Displaced Maranaos at squalid evacuation sites have nothing but harsh words against the Dawlah Islamiya militants.

An evacuee, Samir Kansain, 32, said he would not hesitate to kill any immediate relative of Omar and Abdullah if given the chance.

“What they did to Marawi that resulted in our relocation to an evacuation site is something we cannot accept,” he said in Filipino.

Fatima Madudi, a mother of two, said she rejoiced when she learned of the recent arrests, one after the other, of spouses Cayamora and Farhana, parents of Omar and Abdullah.

“We wish all of them will be arrested soon or be killed by soldiers running after them,” Madudi, also a Maranao, said in the Cebuano dialect.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said he has directed all of the 39 municipal police chiefs in Lanao del Sur to guard against possible revenge attacks by angry Maranaos against Maute clan members.

Sindac also confirmed receiving reports that Maute relatives in Lanao del Sur’s Marantao and Butig towns were possible targets of revenge attacks.

“We don’t want any outbreak of violence between angry Maranao people and this family. We have to let the law take its proper course. Authorities are doing everything for justice to triumph,” Sindac said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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