Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ISIS-linked groups think Marawi is ‘strategic’ in plan to set up own province in Mindanao

From GMA News (Jun 20): ISIS-linked groups think Marawi is ‘strategic’ in plan to set up own province in Mindanao

Military intelligence point to Marawi's strategic location as reason for local terror groups to choose the Muslim-majority city as launch pad for attacks for the purpose of establishing an ISIS province in Mindanao.

Disclosing excerpts of the affidavit of Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) told the Supreme Court (SC) that Marawi was a "strategic location due to its favorable terrain and accessibility to Northern and Central Mindanao."

"Military intelligence point to [Isnilon] Hapilon’s tactical intent of using Maguindanao and Cotabato as escape routes, supply line, and backdoor passage for reinforcements from other ISIS-linked rebel groups," the OSG said in its memorandum.

"These would have aided them in gaining control over and consolidating not just Marawi City, but a larger part of the Mindanao region. Moreover, the rebel groups have established contacts inside the city who are providing them with logistical and financial support," it added.

According to the military, the rebels led by the Maute group had intended to raze the entire city of Marawi, the capital of Lanao Del Sur province, on the day of Ramadan or on May 26.

"They said attack would have served as the precursor for other rebel groups to stage their own uprisings across Mindanao in a bid to simultaneously establish a wilayah [province] in the region," the OSG said.

However, the government said the planned attack was foiled when soldiers attempted to arrest Hapilon for various cases, forcing the ISIS-linked local rebel groups to prematurely execute the attack.

The SC is looking into the issue whether there is sufficient factual basis for President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao on the ground of rebellion, which the petitioners said did not exist.

The petitioners even pointed out that terrorism does not equate to rebellion, noting the attacks on Marawi City stemmed from an armed resistance by the Maute group to shield Hapilon from capture.

Solicitor General Jose Calida refuted this claim, saying the joint police and military operation "actually pre-empted and foiled the plan of the terrorists to burn down the city of Marawi and establish a wilayah (ISIS province)."

The government said martial law was necessary to quell rebellion since ISIS-inspired local rebel groups have taken arms against the Philippine government to remove Mindanao from the republic and to deprive Duterte of his powers and prerogatives.

In asking the high court to uphold Proclamation No. 216, Calida said the SC can take judicial notice of the fact that the occupation of Marawi by armed groups has been ongoing for almost a month now.

"This alone is proof enough that the goal of these lawless elements is not merely to sow fear and panic to the populace, but to actually establish a stronghold in the Mindanao region and deprive duly-constituted authorities of their powers and prerogatives therein," he said.


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