Singaporeans among foreign militants fighting Philippine army in Marawi

Pauline Gross
June 2, 2017

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana identified the militants as members of the Maute group.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has all but given his soldiers carte blanche in the battle against Islamic State-affiliated Maute fighters, even joking he'd take responsibility if his soldiers violate citizens' rights in Mindanao, including by committing rape.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the declaration is based on the recommendation of the joint police-military Task Force Zamboanga as "part of the stepped-up security measures" to ensure safety and protection of civilians.

Meanwhile, as the military continued clearing operations in Marawi yesterday, the local government of Zamboanga City has declared a "No ID-No Entry" policy at its borders and checkpoints.

Maute militants flew an IS flag in one of the city's mosques past year, a local resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.

Attack helicopters were streaking low over Marawi on Monday, firing rockets at militant hideouts, as heavily armed soldiers went house to house in search of fighters.

Hosted by Aljo Bendijo and Kathy San Gabriel, the forum had a resident of Marawi City and political analysts to explain the situation and clarify the need for martial law.

"They have been sending us text messages, calling our hotline, requesting us to send rescue teams but we can not simply go to areas which are inaccessible to us", Adiong told AFP. "If there's an open defiance, you will die", the brash president said, adding, "If it means many people dying, so be it".

Duterte also imposed martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, which is home to 20 million people, to stop what he said was the rising threat of an IS caliphate being established.

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"We can still talk about it", Mr Duterte said.

The MHA statement came after Philippines authorities said on Friday (May 26) that Singaporeans are among the foreign nationals fighting in Marawi City.

Residents have been sending appeals for help via text message, but rescue teams have not been able to penetrate the districts where they are located, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the local province of Lanao Del Sur.

The violence erupted in the moments after a failed attempt by security forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a radical faction of another extremist group, who the government believes is Islamic State's point-man in the Philippines.

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the armed forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, told reporters they are now on the offensive and assured they will try their best to clear the city as soon as possible. Hapilon has also suffered a mild stroke, he said. "We have to finish this".

Ano also said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious. Ano said the gunmen were prepared to fight due to their Ramadan attack plot.

"In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities", said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla. He also heads an alliance that includes at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which have a heavy presence in Marawi and were instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week's battles.

The violence is the latest in four decades of conflict across the southern third of the mostly Catholic Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has claimed more than 120,000 lives.

Other reports by GizPress

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