President Rodrigo Duterte talks to troopers of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Iligan City on May 26, 2017 amid terror attacks in Marawi City. PPD

Duterte warns of ISIS retaliation, more bombings in Mindanao
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - June 21, 2017 - 7:07am
MANILA, Philippines — Terrorists aligned with ISIS may stage more bombings in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte warned, as he called for vigilance against possible retaliatory attacks by extremist groups.
 
Duterte said the threats would not disappear even if the fighting in strife-torn Marawi City is over.
 
 
“You have to keep watch and control the movements as yet. Just because the fighting has stopped in Marawi, it does not mean that we are already safe. One of these days, they will go into bombings,” the president told reporters in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday night.
 
“It could start in Mindanao. They are there. There are a lot of motions there. And I just hope that the Moro people would not, you know, do not take it hook, line, and sinker,” he added.
 
Duterte said a spillover of the Marawi conflict is possible as terrorists may slip to other parts of Mindanao to evade pursuing government forces.
 
“You know there are places, you have Cotabato, you have Basilan, you have Jolo. Whether you like it or not, the sentiments of a spillover there. Kaya… Besides, they are escaping in all directions in Davao,” the president said.
 
 
“The retaliatory moves of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), better keep watch. I’m not saying that it’s happening, but it will happen in the near future because of the inroads of ISIS into Mindanao,” he added.
 
Asked what he plans to do with the threat posed by the terrorists, Duterte said: “I will deal with them harshly.”
 
 
Fighting broke out in the predominantly Muslim city last May 23 after security forces raided a house believed to be the hiding place of wanted terrorist and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. A total of 268 terrorists, 66 government troopers and 26 civilians have died since the clashes started. About 500 individuals are still trapped in the battle zone while more than 320,000 others have been displaced.
 
Security officials are no longer setting a timeline for the retaking of Marawi City after repeatedly missing their self-imposed deadlines.
 
Duterte claimed that the fighting in Marawi is winding up “except for a few snipers left behind.”
 
“I do not think that it would last a little longer than expected,” the President said.
 
Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla echoed this, saying  the situation in Marawi “continues to improve.”
 
“There are areas that we have not covered before that we have already overcome at this moment and the process of clearing is what we are concentrating on in the succeeding days,” Padilla said in a press briefing Wednesday in Malacañang.
 
While the government wants to put an end to the Marawi siege as soon as possible, Padilla said they would not sacrifice the lives of soldiers just to fast track the clearing operations.
 
Padilla said they are prioritizing the buildings that are heavily built up or are capable of withstanding bombardments.
 
“The Armed Forces is also carefully assessing the situation in the outlying areas in preparation for the rehabilitation,” he added.

Duterte cool to offer of armed Christian group

Despite the threats posed by Islamist extremists, the president is cool to the offer of armed Christian group Ilaga to help government forces flush out the terrorists in Marawi.
 
 
“I do not think at this time that we have to include the civilian sector. The last thing that I would want to happen is a communal war,” the president said.
 
“I know that some of the Christians are getting insecure and that is why a lot of them have been looking for heavy firearms…But the offer would only add to the convoluted thing that’s happening now. Let the Armed Forces and the police deal with the problem. I know that they’re capable of doing it,” he added.
 
 
Duterte previously warned that a civil war may ensue if the security problems caused by the Maute group is not addressed.

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