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After death of Marawi siege leaders, military focusing on preventing spread of extremist ideology

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
After death of Marawi siege leaders, military focusing on preventing spread of extremist ideology

Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine defense secretary, says that they are coordinating with local community and Muslim leaders to prevent the spread of extremist ideology among children.AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — After the Philippine military announced the death of two leaders of Islamic militants who led the siege of Marawi City, security agencies are now eying to battle the spread of extremist ideologies in schools and local Muslim communities, the country's defense secretary said on Monday.

Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine defense secretary, made the announcement as troops received a boost in their fight to end the months-long crisis when the military officials confirmed that Isnilon Hapilon, the appointed emir of the so-called Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, one of the founding leaders of the IS-inspired Maute Group, died during an early Monday morning firefight at the heart of the Islamic City.

According to Lorenzana, the government has already coordinated with ulamas (Muslim scholars) and imams (teachers) to ensure that communities and children will not be exposed to the foreign ideology that has fueled the crisis in Marawi, most serious security problem so far for the 15-month-old presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

READ: DND: Hapilon, Maute deaths imply end of Marawi conflict

He said that the government, in coordination with local community and Muslim leaders, would have a "say" in the contents of what will be taught in madrasas or Muslim schools as well as the teachers who will deliver these lessons.

"We recognize that this foreign, destructive ideology was brought in. For the longest time, we have not been paying attention to it. Now, we will be addressing this," the Philippine defense chief said in a media conference in Marawi City.

"We have the support of the ulamas in  Mindanao," he added.

READ:  How Maute, Hapilon died in one of last Marawi gunfights

The defense secretary also announced that they were confident that they would be able to end the Marawi siege before Manila hosts a regional summit that will feature leaders from Southeast Asian nations, Japan and the US.

"We are very sure that we can end this Marawi crisis before the ASEAN summit," he said although he did not provide a specific date as the government and security agencies had already failed to meet several self-imposed deadlines to free the city from the militants.

Once the siege is over, Duterte will be able to focus his attention on the ASEAN Leaders' Summit in the Philippine capital where he is expected to meet with Donald Trump, the American leader.

Lorenza said that the death of Hapilon and Maute was significant as the two were a "unifying force" for a band of militants who were able to mount the most serious terror problem in the region in the past 15 years.

Despite relentless ground and aerial assaults from the military, the militants proved resilient and were able to last more than five months, causing extensive damage to the city's infrastructure and the residents' houses.

According to Lorenzana, the Department of Budget and Management has already allotted P5 billion for the operation and support to the evacuees until the end of the year.

DBM is eying P10 billion for next year to jumpstart the physical rehabilitation of the city, according to Lorenzana.

He added that the military was expecting retaliatory attacks from local terror groups following the death of the two, but he gave assurance that local government officials and the Armed Forces were working to prevent these from happening.

"All cities in Mindanao are vulnerable. Everybody here is vulnerable. Every place is vulnerable. What we need to do is be vigilant," he said.

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