Friday, May 26, 2017

Analyst says Maute Group more terrorist than extremist

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): Analyst says Maute Group more terrorist than extremist

There is a difference between religious extremism and terrorism.

This was pointed out by Singaporean political analyst, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna during the “Extremism and Martial Law Forum” aired on the People’s Television Network (PTV4) Friday night.

Gunaratna was interviewed live via Skype during the program and was asked to distinguish ideological or religious extremism from terrorism.

It has been a misconception among non-Islamic people that Islam preaches violence as invoked by radical groups, such as the Islamic State of Lanao formed by the Maute brothers and under the command of Isnilon Hapilon, he said.

Gunaratna explained that there is such a thing as ideological extremism, which can be interpreted as a more conservative practice of religion, such as that imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, where women are not allowed to get an education and are required to be fully covered up in public.

He however noted that the Islamic State of Lanao led by the Mautes, is not an extremist group.

”They are a terrorist group because they have killed civilians. They have burned churches so they have demonstrated that they have gone beyond the phase of extremism into violence and this is now a terrorist organization and the state will have to deal with them in order to contain, isolate and eliminate the threat so they do not pose a future security threat to the Philippines,” Gunaratna emphasized.

During the discussion, it was mentioned that a trademark of terrorist groups around the world is taking action against “soft targets” — civilians and non-military infrastructure. This brings to mind the Davao City Night Market bomb blast in September last year that killed 15 persons and wounded about 69 others. A few weeks after the incident, defense officials presented to the media three members of the Maute Group said to be responsible for the blast.

Gunaratna further said that what happened in Marawi City was not a failure of intelligence, citing that since 2014, there has been information on the existence of the Maute Group.

”Last year, Isnilon Hapilon came from Basilan and he linked up with Omar and Abdullah Maute. So, I believe it is not intelligence failure. It is a failure to appreciate intelligence and government has to double up their capabilities to appreciate intelligence,” he said.

”Unfortunately, the previous government did not acknowledge that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was recruiting and even government officials were saying there was no ISIS.”

Since Tuesday, several hostages were reportedly taken by the group, among them a Catholic priest. The Catholic Church in Marawi City was burned down and several structures have been damaged, including a transmission tower, causing power outage in the city.

Two ambulance drivers were killed and their vehicles commandeered by the group. A senior police officer was also killed at a checkpoint manned by the Maute.

The violence has resulted in loss of life of both innocent civilians and government troops and has forced residents to flee to neighboring cities for their safety.

Those in the Muslim faith have professed that Islam is not about violence as some groups would like to portray and besmirch its good name. Native Maranaws from Marawi are saddened by the fact that their beautiful and peaceful city has become a battleground, especially on the eve of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Gunaratna said President Rodrigo Duterte’s recognition of ISIS presence in the Philippines is critical to the solution.

The analyst also noted that although the country’s military and police personnel are capable, they need to undergo re-training as they are dealing with terrorism.

They have to upgrade both their skills and equipment in fighting terrorism, he said.

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