From the Gulf Today (May 20): ‘Recruitment by Daesh-linked terrorists continues’
Daesh-linked terror groups continue their recruitment activities in restive Mindanao, targeting mostly the Moro youths and victims of the Marawi City siege in May 2017 that prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte that to declare martial law over the whole of troubled Southern Philippines.
This warning was aired on Saturday by Professor Rommel Banlaoi who described the recruitment activities as “massive, discreet and decisive” not only in Marawi City but also in neighboring areas like the cities of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato as well as other parts of Central Mindanao.
More alarming is that the terrorists have been capitalizing on the plight of the victims of the Marawi siege, particularly the Moro youths as young as nine years old who can carry firearms, Banlaoi told radio station DzBB in an interview.
Banlaoi heads the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism which is closely keeping tabs on developments in Mindanao including the danger posed by the presence of Daesh-linked terror groups despite their defeat by government forces five months after they laid siege on Marawi City on May 23, 2017.
Banlaoi disclosed that the unabated recruitment activities are being undertaken by the Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East, who wanted to turn Marawi into a caliphate to be used as the main base for their expanded operation in Southeast Asia.
The military said the BIFF is a breakaway group founded by the late veteran field commander Ameril Umbra Kato of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who seceded with about 1,000 of his followers due to major policy differences with the front leaders over the conduct of their peace negotiations with the government.
In this light, Banlaoi urged the government to focus not only on the overall rehabilitation efforts of Marawi but especially in the rebuilding of the homes of the displaced residents as well as their spirit and sense of hope.
Six days before the first anniversary of the siege on May 23, 2017, meanwhile, Task Force Bangon Marawi launched on Thursday the Marawi Week of Peace to commemorate the heroism and unity of civilians and soldiers during the siege.