Monday, July 10, 2017

7 IS suspects held at NAIA, 3 released

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 11): 7 IS suspects held at NAIA, 3 released


Immigration autho-rities who are conducting a tight watch on the movement of militants amid the Marawi City siege held seven suspected members of the Maute terror group who were supposed to leave the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI), however, allowed three of the seven passengers to leave while the four were held by the police for having warrants of arrest issued by various courts. It was not clear if the four have any links with the Maute terrorists who continue to fight the military in Marawi City.

Brought to the police headquarters were Al Nizar Maute; Abdulrahman Maute, Yasser Maute and Ashary Maute who have pending warrants of arrest.

The BI, however, allowed Cota Mawiyag, Acmali Mawiyag and Abdulkahar Maute to leave the country after they were cleared by the airport police of any criminal activities.

Unfortunately, the plane the cleared individuals were supposed to take had already left the NAIA and they had to take another flight.

BI Port Operations chief Marc Red MariƱas said the seven were supposed to board Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 499 bound for Kuala Lumpur at 2 pm yesterday before they were stopped by immigration officers,

They were held by BI-Travel Control Enforcement Unit headed by Danieve Bensol, Anthony Lopez and Maida Rebong, who called the police.

The four will undergo further investigations to determine whether they are among the personalities listed under the arrest order issued by the Department of Defense.

 War vs IS enters day 50

As the siege entered its 50th day, government security forces were still struggling to flush out Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists despite continued pounding of their positions at the city’s downtown using the military’s full air and ground might.

As of yesterday, the military continued to conduct air strikes as the ground troops advanced to areas still being occupied by the terrorists.

Reports said air strikes were intensified as ground troops continued to penetrate downtown Marawi City to neutralize enemy snipers, who are still positioned in high-rise buildings.

For several weeks now, the military has struggled to flush out the IS-inspired terrorists from portions of four barangays in downtown Marawi City.

As of July 9 at 6 p.m., civilians killed by terrorists remained at 39 while those rescued were 1,723.

The number of terrorists killed reached 379 while the recovered high-powered firearms from terrorists ballooned to 451.

On the other hand, the government has suffered 89 fatalities since the siege started last May 23 when troops attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon.

The military estimated the number of remaining terrorists who continued to put up resistance at about 80, under the command of Abdullah Maute.

It was not clear, however, where Hapilon is, the designated emir or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Southeast Asia.

Brig. Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey, commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, said that the military is now finalizing preparations for the deployment of soldier-engineers in Marawi City to spearhead the rehabilitation of the Islamic city.

“The AFP is finalizing the preparation for deployment of Army engineers to be supported by Navy and Airforce engineer units,” said Rey.

He said the same soldier-engineers were responsible in constructing mosques and schoolbuildings in Mamasapano, Maguindanao after the January 2015 infamous Mamasapano massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

Kids, hostages forced to fight

Children and hostages are being forced to fight alongside pro-Islamic State gunmen waging a seven-week battle for a Philippine city, the country’s military said Monday.

Militants seized Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, on May 23 in a bid to create an IS province, and over 100 remain holed up in the city despite intense military efforts to oust them.

Some of the extremists are teenagers who may have been recruited and trained to use guns when they were still children, said Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman.

“We continuously get disturbing narratives from (escaped residents) that children as well as hostages are being employed in the firefight,” Padilla told reporters in Manila.

Casualties among children and civilians forced to take up arms cannot be ruled out, Padilla said.

“As disturbing as it is, our troops are doing their best to avoid any casualty among these children who are being employed,” he said.

“But in the event... they bear arms and are involved in the fighting, there is nothing much that we can do. Similarly with the hostages who are being forced.”

Shortly after seizing Marawi gunmen took at least a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest.

Some of the estimated 300 other civilians still trapped in the area may have also been taken captive, said Padilla.

The military earlier said civilians had been forced to help the gunmen by carrying supplies and ammunition, bearing their wounded and even helping them loot the city.

Daily air strikes and artillery barrages against militant snipers who control tall buildings have left Marawi’s central business district a ghost town.

President Rodrigo Duterte last month vowed to “crush” the militants but several government-set deadlines to end the conflict have already been missed.

The fighting also prompted Duterte to declare martial law over Mindanao. Padilla expressed hope that the fighting would soon be concluded.

“We continue to gain headway with our operations on the ground,” he said.

 IS remains a serious threat

The military may have succeeded in degrading the armed capacity of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants days before martial law expires but that doesn’t mean that the terrorist threat has subsided.

Padilla told reporters yesterday in a Palace briefing that there are indicators that IS fanatics have scattered throughout Mindanao.

Such claim justifies why martial law should not be limited to IS-occupied Marawi City, the military official pointed out.

“We should not limit our concerns to Marawi alone. We should remember that the structure the rebellion has caused is not contained in Marawi,” Padilla said.

“They only launched Marawi as an attacking zone... Their network has expanded elsewhere in Mindanao,” he added.

Padilla noted that troops were able to encounter elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that are said to be adherents of the IS.

Padilla, furthermore, defended soldiers involved in clearing operations in Marawi who were accused of taking properties and valuable items like appliances, cash and jewelries.

He said items recovered by soldiers were turned over to their owners and houses and establishments that they could not safeguard were ordered to be padlocked.

He noted that the morale of the soldiers remains high due to continuing public support that they have been receiving.

“Our troops are continuously forward-looking, hoping and looking forward to resolve this issue or this incident in Marawi at the soonest time possible,” Padilla said.

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