From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): Troops ordered to protect mosques amid terror threats
Government troops have been ordered to secure mosques and other places of worships amid threat from extremist groups as the observance of the holy month of Ramadhan started on Saturday.
“All our personnel in Western Mindanao [Command] (Westmincom) were ordered to carry out security measures to ensure that the vicinity of mosques (masjids) will be secured and the Islamic faithful are free to go there to exercise their religion,” said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief.
In his Ramadhan message, Galvez also assured that the military was taking all necessary precautions to prevent collateral damages in its efforts to flush-out remaining members of the Maute group in Marawi City.
Ramadhan is a holy month of fasting, introspection and prayers for the followers of Islam.
“As fighting continues in Marawi, our units are constrained to launch airstrikes to identified specific targets occupied by the Maute/ISIS terrorist group,” Galvez said.
“The terrorists actions prevent their fellow Muslims to peacefully and solemnly observe Ramadhan by continuing to occupy buildings and structures in Marawi City. They serve to impede our troops in restoring peace and order in that city,” he said.
“These terrorists atrocities continue (to) sow terror and confusion even to non-combatant Muslims and Christians. Establishments remain non-operational and government services unavailable causing extreme deprivation and hardships to the people,” he added.
He said normally, a Ramadan break was granted to Muslim soldiers but for now they need to give their share of sacrifices to ensure that Islam believers from Marawi City could return home soon and observe Ramadhan.
He added Muslim soldiers were given time to practice their faith but were ordered to be on assignment.
He vowed they would not allow the Maute group to ruin the lives of the Filipinos and “give Islam a bad name”.
“It is in this light that there is a need to deliberately employ forces and air assets to target with precision selected, identified, and already isolated terrorist locations,” he said.
The fighting in Marawi City started on May 23 when the Maute group members laid siege after the troops raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is being protected by the group.
The fighting escalated as Maute group members have occupied several establishments and took civilians, including a priest, as hostages.
Galvez asked for the understanding of the Muslims, particularly the internally displaced persons, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front affected by the Marawi incident.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under martial law to prevent the spread of conflict and arrest terrorists and their protectors.
To date, 31 Maute group members and 11 soldiers were been killed since the fighting erupted in Marawi City.