Thursday, June 29, 2017

Non-Maranao groups complicate Maute, emissary talks – Adiong

From CNN Philippines (Jun 28): Non-Maranao groups complicate Maute, emissary talks – Adiong

Emissaries' attempts to negotiate the release of civilians are hampered by other terror groups "supported by foreign fighters," a crisis management official said Wednesday.

The presence of non-Maranao among the gunmen who have been sowing terror in Marawi City since May 23 are complicating the negotiations, said Provincial Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong on CNN Philippines' The Source.

"What happened to Marawi is actually an attack made my two groups, the Abu Sayyaf and the Daulah Islamiyah, also supported by foreign fighters," Adiong said. The Maranao are the dominant ethnic group in Lanao del Sur, of which Marawi City is the capital.

"So makikita natin [we see] why Marawi City or some of the emissaries are having difficulty in discussing the possibility of rescuing trapped civilians. It's because there are groups there that are not Maranaos," he added.

The Daulah Islamiyah, or the IS (Islamic State)-Ranao, is the other name claimed by the Maute Group, say experts studying terror groups in Southeast Asia.

Eight emissaries, who are respected Muslim figures from Marawi, spoke to Maute group on Sunday in an effort to free the remaining hostages and trapped civilians. Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said that there are still "more or less 100 hostages in ground zero."

There was an "adverse reaction" to the idea of surrender, said Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Related: Emissaries, Maute talk reaches deadlock – peace adviser

The ensuing crisis which is now on its sixth week prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. The fighting has since left over 300 dead and more than 240,000 displaced.

The military also estimated that there were 40 foreign fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen who joined the Maute, warning that the number could increase. The Bureau of Immigration has since beefed up security around Philippine borders.

Malacanang Palace and the military have since clarified that they did not sanction such talks, saying they do not negotiate with terrorists.

Related: No negotiations with terrorists – Palace on Maute-hostage swap

Adiong said the talks were a civilian effort in partnership with OPAPP and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"I think nagpe-play din doon ang role ng family dynamics – at the same time, essentially yung importance at ang influence doon ng mga elders [Family dynamics plays a role – so does the influence of the elders]," said Adiong of Maranao culture.

"So it's only a matter of tapping the perfect person to do the liaising in order to at least secure [an] agreement or a go signal to allow trapped residents to be rescued," he added.

The Maute's hold of Marawi is down to four barangays.

Tribal differences may have come into play in what the military believes is division among members of the terrorist group as government forces close in on them.

Related: There's divisiveness among Maute group leaders

Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera also expounded on infighting among terrorists on Monday. He said that Maranaos who were lured with money and who worked with terrorists were now regretting their decisions because they "did not foresee" the extent of the damage.

"The Maute brothers are Maranao. There is a huge clamor among the constituents of Maranao - traditional leaders, religious leaders - convincing these people to get out... to surrender. Because they are not only destroying Marawi City, but they are also destroying the heritage, the culture, and the next generations of Maranao people," said Herrera also on The Source.

"So kung makikita mo doon, ang talagang na-iinvolve doon, they are Maguindanaoan, Tausug, Yakan-they're not from here. So they don't care kung anong mangyari dito sa Marawi City," he added. [Translation: If you look closely, those who are involved (in the Marawi crisis) are Maguindanaoan, Tausug, Yakan – they're not from here. So they don't care what happens to Marawi City.]

The Abu Sayyaf is primarily based in southwestern Mindanao, where the Muslim population is composed of other tribal groups like the Badjao, Tausug, and Yakan.

Even as the talks were not sanctioned by government, Herrera said that they are cooperating with the envoys on details of their negotiation.

"Right now we are still collaborating with them kung ano ba talaga ang napag-usapan [with regard to what they talked about]," said Herrera. "But as I mentioned, our focus here is to continue our job, to conduct combat clearing operations and... neutralize the remaining [members of the] terrorist group."

Abu Sayyaf leader and supposed ISIS-appointed emir for Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon was also reported to have escaped Marawi.

Related: Isnilon Hapilon believed to be out of Marawi

But this was denied Wednesday by Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.

"Hangga't hindi po kami nakakakuha ng katibayan, atin pong sisikapin na kunin itong mga patibay na 'to. Pero kung saka-sakali pong totoo ito na siya po ay wala na diyan, ito po'y nagpapatibay na naduwag na siya (Until we get confirmation, we will continue to verify this. If it is true that he left, it just proves his cowardice)," said Padilla.

Padilla added that if Hapilon, who has a 10 million-peso bounty on his head for his capture, has indeed fled, it reflected the weakening of the Maute gunmen's resolve.

"It was an act of cowardice if he abandoned his fellow terrorists from inside. And showing that he fled from the battle and left many more of his companions inside would not sit well and may be indicative of an infighting that is occurring among them," he added.

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