Saturday, June 10, 2017

Army says no US troops in Marawi, but Moro group scores PHL’s subservience to US

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jun 10): Army says no US troops in Marawi, but Moro group scores PHL’s subservience to US

IN DANGER. Ground forces involved in the continuing military offensives against the ISIS-linked Maute group and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi are also in danger of being hit by the so-called “friendly” fire or airstrikes. On Wednesday, 11 soldiers were killed while 10 others were wounded when a bomb dropped from an air force plane landed into their position. (Alexander D. Lopez/ photo)

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — An official of the Philippine Army explained that the assistance given by the US troops in the fight versus the local terrorists are limited to exchanges of intelligence, training and technical support.

Lt. Col. Joar Herrera said the US troops assisting the soldiers in Marawi are not participating in combat operations.

“US counterparts facilitate the exchanges of intelligence, provide training and of course the technical support,” Herrera said.

He added: “They are not fighting, they are just providing technical support.”

Reporters covering the Marawi siege has captured on video a US P3 Orion surveillance plane flying here Friday, but Herrera refused to comment on the purpose of the said activity.

However, a Moro organization condemns the presence of US troops in Marawi.

Jerome Succor Aba, national chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro, said unless the Philippines ends “subservience” to the “US War on Terror”, problems of terrorism in Mindanao, like the Maute and ASG will continue.
Aba said these local terrorist groups “were created by the US to justify military intervention in the country.”

“The Philippines’ subservience to US causes us trouble aside from violating the country’s sovereignty. It is the US which brings terrorism here like the US-CIA that created ISIS and which is now linked to the Maute group and the ASG,” Aba said.

Aba said “the role of US in Marawi is not new as the US troops have been to Camp Ranao where Gregan Cardeño, a Filipino who worked as an interpreter for the US, was found dead.”

In a report by Reuters, it quoted a US embassy spokesperson saying that US special forces are helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its fight in Marawi City.

The Reuters report quoted the spokesperson as saying: “At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that help AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) militants.”

Asked whether the assistance of the US was made upon the request of the Philippine government, Herrera said the two countries already have existing agreements on military assistance.

Martial law arrest order: 310 terrorists, supporters

From the Philippine Star (Jun 10): Martial law arrest order: 310 terrorists, supporters

Using its martial law powers, the Department of National Defense has issued arrest orders against 310 alleged members, supporters, spies and couriers of four terrorist organizations in Mindanao. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

Rody to follow SC on martial law

MANILA, Philippines - Using its martial law powers, the Department of National Defense (DND) has issued arrest orders against 310 alleged members, supporters, spies and couriers of four terrorist organizations in Mindanao.

All those in the list are accused of involvement in killings, kidnappings and bombings to set up an Islamic state in Marawi City, which altogether constitute the crime of rebellion under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code.

Those to be arrested are tagged as members of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Maguid group.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the designated administrator of martial law as proclaimed by President Duterte on May 23, signed Arrest Orders 1 and 2.

Those in the list are accused of “sowing terror to the populace” with the common design or goal of allegedly committing rebellion “for the purpose of removing Mindanao from the territory of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or its laws by establishing an independent Islamic State and/or deprive the Chief Executive of his powers and prerogatives as President of the Republic.”

Arrest Order No. 2 dated June 5, 2017 lists 185 names, including several alleged Maute clan members, while Arrest Order No. 1, as confirmed earlier by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, calls for the arrest of 125 individuals.

Lorenzana tasked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to implement his directives.

He said those in the lists are to be arrested, taken into custody, investigated and charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) within three days from their actual arrest.

The security agencies were also ordered to “ensure that all the rights of the persons arrested/detained/taken into custody… are protected by Philippine law, including human rights and the rights of persons under custodial investigation under Republic Act No. 7438.”

The arrest orders were issued after the proclamation of martial law placing the entire Mindanao region under military rule.

President Duterte imposed martial law across the entire region within hours after the fighting broke out in a bid to quickly crush the Islamic State-inspired Maute group.

Duterte yesterday said he has no plans of perpetuating himself in power by placing Mindanao under military law.

“You know these fools, they were trying to think that we in government are trying to perpetuate ourself in power,” he said.

“I’m the second president to declare martial law. I am not proud of it. I am not happy because it indicates something, that there is trouble.”

The President lamented critics have been asking him how long martial law would prevail and what else remains to be done.

“You keep on asking when this will end. This is my answer to the doubting Thomases: there is no ambition to perpetuate (myself) in power,” he said.

Duterte explained that he declared martial law because the AFP and the police told him that the crisis in Marawi City had reached its critical moment.

Duterte said he was forced to cut short his visit to Moscow because of the deteriorating security situation back home.

Several sectors, including opposition lawmakers, filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the validity of the declaration of martial law.

Four women from war-torn Marawi City joined the call by filing a separate petition yesterday asking the high court to order the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, saying it was unconstitutional.

Duterte gave assurance he would abide by the decision of the SC should it grant the petitions questioning his proclamation of martial law.

“Of course. We are bound by rules. It’s the Supreme Court. Maybe you may differ individually… because you cannot agree on almost anything all the time,” Duterte said.

Duterte also warned Moros to step aside as troops carry out the campaign against Maute terrorists or be killed.

“My warning to my fellow Moros: do not, do not attempt to play here. If you do not want to be harmed, step aside,” the President said.

The hot list

Authorities are now tracking down the people listed in the arrest orders issued by the defense department.

Included in the arrest list are couples Cayamora Maute and Ominta “Farhana” Romato, the patriarch and matriarch of the Maute clan in Mindanao.

Cayamora was arrested at a checkpoint in Davao City last Tuesday along with three other members of the Maute clan, his third wife Kongan Alfonso Balawag, his daughter Norjannah Balawag and son-in-law Benzarali Tingao.

The arrest order also included former Marawi City mayor Fajad Salic, who was arrested Wednesday in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental. Salic, who is facing rebellion charges, is reportedly a financier and supporter of the Maute group in its early years.

On the other hand, 18 people all surnamed Maute were cleared by the NBI of any links with the Maute group fighting government troops in Marawi.

NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin pointed out the 18 Mautes “voluntarily presented themselves to be cleared of any suspicion of derogatory record.”

Secretary Aguirre described them earlier as “surrenderees,” saying the reason for their surrender is to clear their names.

Some of the 18 Mautes came from Lanao del Sur, where Marawi City is located, while some of them had been residing in Metro Manila for years.

Officials said the 18 Mautes were not among the 125 people in the list under Arrest Order No. 2.

Another Maute, a man in his 40s, received his NBI clearance to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage.

The man, who refused to be named for fear of his safety, insisted he had no blood relations with the Maute brothers leading the extremist group laying siege in Marawi.

Of the 125 people in the list, 95 use their real names while the rest are aliases.
Among those in the list are Hamsa Romato Maute, Ustadz Acmad Maute/Baute Kankan Romato, Macadatu Usman, engineer Talib Bayabao, Said H. Yusop Macadatu, Akhol Asad Abdulrahman Maute, Ali A. Maute, Aminkisa Romato Macadato, Nassif Romato Macadato, Hanipa Halayodan Diamael;

Fajad Salie alias Pre, Solitario Ali Salic Faisal Binaning Romato, Acmad Momokan Guinar, Imam Daud, Mike Ayonan, Jamil D. Yahya, Anthony Jake Perez, Jing Pagayao, Adliah Mimbantas Maute, Najiya Dilangalen, Karon Maute, Aminollah Hadji Ali Mangurom;

Omar Solitario Ali, Sultan Fahad Salic, Abul Radiah, Samuel A. Gavaran, Fiscal Habinb Barudi, Anwar Macadato Dimaporo, Unday Macadato, Mudag Dimala Macadato, Saifoden Guinar, Yusopia Macadatu Mesug, Ben Najar T., and former Butig, Lanao del Sur mayor Ibrahom Mitoon Macadato.

Also included are Zachariah Hadji Jabber, Basco Corot, Aliman Amerol, Manapowak Regaro, Zamanoden Liyaw, Abdul Batuwaan, Bao Elias Baki, Khadafi Bao, Sikar Romato Ilias Rauf, Amino Romato, Abdurahman Romato Jr.;

Abdullah Mimbantas, Ansari Cadiran, Mubarak Gunda, Suod Radiamoda Magarang, Mamacaya Magarang, Cayog Gunda, Diamal Ali Bacatimbang, Khamal Marcos Atawan, Anuar Basmala Atawan, Asis Mu, Ibnul Jihad, Said Hadji Macadato, Aleem Basit Dangaman, Ayob Saripada, Salic Ali, Congan Balawag, Datu Jun Singel, Abu Khalid Dilangalen, Pendatum Marohom, Mohammad Lalaog Chenikandiyil, Nasser Dilangalen, Abdulrafi Esmael P. Abdulrakman, Aladin Tenorio, Shelamar Berja, Yok Ampatuan, Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema, Esmael Abdulmalik Jonathan Lumbao, JB Mastura;

A certain Kadidja, Kopang Sahak, Ramram Tungan, Jumar Sala, Jamie Sala, Kris Salipada,

Akbar Buyo, Saedi Salipadad, Abdulrakman, Pepeng Gama, Banban Salipada, Alvin Gama,

Mahir Gama, Abu Harris Usman, Abu Omar Nilong, Abu Yasser Nilong, Zaide/Zainuding Nilong, Esmael Abubakar;

Mohiden Animbang, Kamad Tangle Benito,

Kadafi Abdulatip, Duk Benito, Dautin Gandang,

Bensar Etaw, Ustads Abunawas, Damiog Ibad,

Abdul Gapor Silongan, Utto Adzis, Kasim Talib,

Thong Abdul, Indo Omal, Datu Niño Ibrahim,

Badrudin Silongan, Hadji Abdullah, Sammy Panidas, Daty Mameko, Banjo Salih, Abu Kadil,

Talio Silongan, Omar Abdullah and a certain Cmdr. Melo.

Others included Zacaria Mindo, Tommy Abunasi, Mike Kawasa, Musa Ali, Saga Animbang, Hassan Kulaw, Amil Akoy, Nasrola Omar, Raul Angkay, Emarudin Hassan, Genwine Hassan, Saidin Ali Hassan, Umer Abdullah, Kasir Abdullah, Abdulgani Demalan, Ronnie Pasagi, Hadji Esmael, Bapa Diaw;

Samad Simpal, Dilamie/Daylani Sipon, Daurin Manampan, Naser Adil, Sheik Mauti, Tato Puaya, Daud Kansi, Norodin Abubakar, Ebrahim Ali, Ali Kadil, Solaiman Tubao, Lakmudin Adil, Anas Abubakar, Abdila Dasil, Kagui Iskak Omar, Nasrudin Pidtabo, Talib Indong, Mama Simpal, Haron Mendo, Buds Basilan;

Saga Indong, Edde Kinal/Dimakinal, Ustadz Maso, Kuno Silonga, Zacaria Mindo, Salahudin Indal, Sinolinding Dimalilay, Ustadz Usah Ganoy, Serah Eskak, Basit Kulibogan, Nasir Sandigan, King Metin, Cmdr. Panegas, Cmdr. Malang, Alimudin Zacaria, Cmdr. Haun Sindatok, Abubakar Julkifre, Mike Siete, Datukan Usman, Kamad Indal, Kagui Roweda, Sadaan Salendab, Mohammadnur Hassan, Abdulagani Mantil, Peng Kulilong, Tiangbong Adam Mamalinta, Allan Mostrales, Fahad Salic, Mohammad Ali and Bambang Maute.

Arrest them anywhere
Aguirre said that while martial law is imposed only in Mindanao, the arrest of the listed personalities can be made anywhere in the country.

Catalino Cuy, officer-in-charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said the PNP commanders in Mindanao have been tasked to help the military arrest those on the list.

Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Maria Antonette Mangrobang said the names provided by the defense department have been incorporated in their alert order list.

Islamic State eyed PH after failing to gain foothold in Indonesia – security expert

From InterAksyon (Jun 10): Islamic State eyed PH after failing to gain foothold in Indonesia – security expert

An Islamic State flag. (Reuters file)

The Islamic State eyed the Philippines as a base for operations after failing to gain a foothold in Indonesia, a Singaporean security affairs analyst said.

The terror group’s expansion began in 2014 when it decided to go expand beyond the Middle East, setting its sights on Africa, the Caucasus and Asia, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna said in a Skype interview during PTV-4’s Countering Violent Extremism Forum Friday.

“The Philippines was selected because they could not establish a caliphate in Indonesia,” Gunaratna said, adding that Islamic State also found local terrorist groups willing to support its extremist cause.

Among these were Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon’s group in Basilan, Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan’s band in Sulu, the Ansar Khalifa Philippines in the Soccsksargen region, the Maute group in Lanao del Sur, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

With these new alliances, Gunaratna said, the terror network saw an opportunity to create a new threat landscape in the southern Philippines.

When asked why the Maute group, now locked in battle with government forces in Marawi City, decided to follow Wahhabism, the Singaporean security analyst said this is because its founders, Omar and Abdullah, both studied in the Middle East and brought home the ideology.

Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative form of Islam that justifies punishments for those who do not follow its teachings.

To counter this, Gunaratna said the Philippines should maintain its local tradition of Islam, one that espouses tolerance and peace and has existed in the country for centuries.

The Big Read - Danger close: Mindanao, and the terrorists next door

From the Today Online (Jun 9): The Big Read - Danger close: Mindanao, and the terrorists next door

Black smoke comes from a burning building after the government troops' continuous assault with insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the Marawi City, Philippines June 9, 2017. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Government has long warned of the dangers of the Islamic State (IS) terror group gaining a foothold in the region, particularly in Southern Philippines where an insurgency has simmered for decades.

Those warnings have now taken an ominous tone, after the Philippines confirmed that foreign fighters are involved in the ongoing siege by groups affiliated with IS in Marawi city on Mindanao island — just over three hours by air from Singapore.

In the words of Philippine Solicitor-General Jose Calida, the unrest in Mindanao has “transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the Islamic State to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria”

IS, which is losing grip on territories in the Middle East, has long harboured ambitions of controlling territory in South-east Asia. This is evident from its establishment of Malay-based combat unit Katibah Nusantara and previous attempts to direct foreign fighters to Poso in the Sulawesi islands of Indonesia.

“There was an attempt to do so in Poso but this was neutralised by the Indonesian Army and Police through Operation Tinombala (from March last year to present),” said Mr Jasminder Singh, a senior analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

He said that most of the foreign fighters, including Uighurs, fled to Mindanao.

“While it (IS) failed in Indonesia so far, it seems to have some degree to success in the Philippines,” he added.

The so-called tri-border area of Mindanao, Sabah and Sulawesi — where policing is poor and movement of people and arms hard to track — represents a particularly appealing location for IS to plant its flag towards its long-term claims to a caliphate.

Concurrently, the difficulty of travelling to the Middle East these days and the ease of movement in and out of Southern Philippines make it an attractive and convenient destination for IS sympathisers and fighters.

“What we are witnessing in the Philippines is that it has become the centre for international terrorists to group together, a whole-of-terrorist approach, similar to what was seen in the tribal regions of Pakistan, and even to some extent in Iraq and Syria, and now in parts of Afghanistan,” said Mr Singh.

“If these terrorists are allowed to group, the danger would be that future terror attacks in South-east Asia or around the world will be planned from the Mindanao area.”

The bigger concern, however, is that IS will take root in the region and wreak havoc over the long term.

“We have a clear realisation that if the situation in Marawi and Mindanao is allowed to escalate or entrench, it will pose decades of problems for Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) cities,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said last weekend after hosting a luncheon discussion for 22 visiting ministers and their representatives on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD).

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam had warned in April that Mindanao could become a sanctuary for returning fighters from the Middle East, noting that “arms seem to move fairly easily into that area” in Southern Philippines.

A month later, hundreds of IS-linked militants besieged Marawi city, setting fire to buildings, taking hostages and killing civilians with a brutality that shocked many.


Mindanao is the only region with a significant Muslim minority in largely-Catholic Philippines and the city of Marawi itself is predominantly Muslim.

For decades, the Mindanao region has been roiled by Islamic separatists, communist rebels, and warlords, offering fertile ground for IS’ ideology to take root.

Security officials in the Philippines said that all four of the country’s pro-IS groups have sent fighters to Marawi with the intention of establishing the city as a South-east Asian "wilayat" — or governorate — for the radical group.

The Marawi seige came just months after security forces attacked the mountain lair of Isnilon Hapilon, a long-time leader of Abu Sayyaf militant group.

He had sworn allegiance to IS in 2014, and quickly got other groups to join him, including the Maute group, run by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute from a well-known family in Marawi.

In a video that surfaced last June, a Syria-based leader of the group urged followers in the region to join Hapilon if they could not travel to the Middle East to fight for IS. Hapilon was named IS’ South-east Asia leader last year.

Philippine and Indonesian intelligence sources said that over the past few months, his forces recruited foreign fighters and Marawi locals. Hapilon, they said, brought 50 to 100 fighters to join Maute’s 250 to 300 men, while two other radical groups, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, together brought at least 40 militants with them.

On May 23, four days before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the militants launched their attack when Philippine forces made an abortive attempt to capture Hapilon in Marawi.

After the military retreated, about 400 militants quickly fanned out across the city, riding trucks mounted with heavy machine guns and armed with rocket launchers and high-powered rifles. They attacked the jail and nearby police station, seizing weapons and ammunition, according to accounts from residents. The militants also destroyed a Shia mosque and razed a Catholic church.

As the shock of how a few hundred fighters managed to subdue an entire town reverberated across the region, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao, home to 20 million people.

So far, according to the military, the death toll stands at 20 civilians, 120 rebels and 38 members of the security forces. More than 2,000 people remain trapped in the centre of Marawi, with no electricity and little food and water.

The response by the Philippine government appears to be too late, too little.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted at the start of the conflict that security forces were surprised when dozens of gunmen appeared on the streets of Marawi after the government failed to capture Hapilon.

This is also not the first time the Maute group had attacked civilian targets, according to Ms Sidney Jones, who is director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta and an expert on radical movements in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Last September, the Maute group bombed a night market in Mr Duterte’s hometown of Davao, but the threat was not recognised by the government then.

"In terms of the intelligence monitoring and security-provision in the ground, it is now clear that there have been lapses by former President Benigno Aquino III's administration and now current President Rodrigo Duterte’s government," said Dr Graham Ong-Webb, a research fellow at RSIS. He noted that Maute was formed in 2013 but the public came to know of it only this year.

"How could the presence of a relatively new militant group, at least 100-strong, go generally unnoticed or not be taken seriously from the beginning? This is a wake-up call not only for the Philippines but the rest of South-east Asia," he added.

Various groups in the southern Philippines have been fighting for a separate Islamic state since the 1970s, with round after round of peace talks breaking down. It is clear Maute, Abu Sayyaf and other groups took advantage of local frustration arising from decades of clashes with Manila and the slow pace of the local peace process to recruit members.

“There has been a prolonged history of conflict between the local Muslims and the central government with most of the issues remaining unresolved,” said Mr Singh of RSIS. “Prior to Jemaah Islamiyah and IS, there were conflicts involving the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group, not to mention many other smaller groups.”

While the main trigger for militants in Mindanao is specific and local, the conflict there has drawn foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia, and even Chechens and Arabs with IS’ encouragement.

Last year, a group of Malaysian militants in the Philippines set up Katibah Al Muhajir — Battalion of Migrants — in response to the failure of South-east Asian recruits to travel to the Middle East to join IS.

“While it has been attracting South-east Asians, the IS presence in the Philippines also seems to have attracted those from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia,” said Mr Singh.

“Mindanao is seen as territory of the Khilafah and the ease of access to the Philippines makes it the ideal place to go for jihadi fighters... there is a new modus operandi that involves bringing together different nationalities for a common cause, which is the signature of IS in Iraq and Syria and this seems to being replicated in Philippines and possibly in South-east Asia.”

All these could make Mindanao not just a local battlefield, but transform the island into a magnet for global IS fighters as well as a staging ground for future attacks in the region.

“The conflict in Marawi is regionally and globally reinforcing. Thus, the spillover is a two-way phenomenon. People from the outside of Marawi are going inside, and people from the inside are going outside,” said Mr Ahmad El-Muhammady, a lecturer of Islamic studies and political science at the International Islamic University Malaysia who has interviewed militant detainees.

“These people have local contacts,” he said. “They can inspire the locals, which could be their friends and relatives."

Just as worryingly, the conflict might also inspire South-east Asian nationals to stage attacks in their own countries, Mr El-Muhammady added.

All one needs to look at is the social media accounts of IS-sympathisers to see how they share and propagate ideologies. The takeover of Marawi, said Ms Jones, was greeted with euphoria by extremists in Indonesia and other territories.

As it is, old jihadist networks in the region are experiencing a resurgence, including old players from the Jemaah Islamiyah days.

While in the last few years, South-east Asians radicalised by IS ideology on the Internet tended to travel to the Middle East to join the fight there, they now only need to go a hop and skip away to Mindanao to support IS through its local proxies there.

“As the Islamic State dwindles in parts of the Middle East, we have to monitor the shift of the group's centre of gravity to Mindanao, which, if left unchecked, can become the new headquarters for growing influence across parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” said Dr Ong-Webb, adding that he will not be surprised to see more foreigners getting involved in the conflict between IS-inspired elements and the Philippine’s forces on the ground.

"By affiliating themselves with the Islamic State, organisations such as the Maute group are globalising what could otherwise have remained a localised problem in the Philippines. What the Philippines government is compelled to do at this stage is to decisively put down the Maute group to deny it the clout it can gain," he added.

That will be easier said than done.

Even if the Armed Forces of the Philippines succeed in taking back Marawi, said Dr Ong-Webb, the Maute group and other insurgents can easily move to other parts of Mindanao, which is about 140 times the size of Singapore. That is a large area for security forces to police, martial law or not.

Making the situation even harder to contain is the region’s porous borders — with family, language and religious ties that go back centuries.

“We must not forget that Mindanao falls in the tri-border area which covers Sabah and Sulawesi as well,” said Mr Singh. “This area is under-policed and serves as an ecosystem unto itself and a safe haven.”

In 2013, about 200 militants from the self-styled Sulu Sultanate in the southern Philippines invaded a small village in Lahad Datu with the purpose of reclaiming Sabah, before they were quelled by Malaysian security forces. While the Malaysian government has taken steps since then to step up security around the area, kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf have continued.

Ultimately, what all these mean is that if IS takes root in Southern Philippines, it will make it easier for the group to direct attacks in South-east Asia, including in Singapore.

“A new template seems to be evolving and developing,” said Mr Singh, “where terrorists can slip in and out of Mindanao, and once an order is given, say by IS Central to attack any targets in the region, it may be carried out.”


South-east Asian governments now face the double whammy of dealing with returning militants from the battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria, as well as those who can export terror from the highly-accessible island of Mindanao.

This threat of foreign fighters is grave simply because of the “unsecured back door” from the Southern Philippines to Malaysia and Indonesia through the porous borders for the three countries around the Sulu Sea, said Dr Ong-Webb.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue last weekend, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines agreed to mount trilateral sea and air patrols in the Sulu Sea to prevent militants from crossing.

Singapore also stands ready to participate in the patrols and help in intelligence and other areas, said Dr Ng.

The United States and the Asean have also offered assistance, but analysts say countries in the region have been slow to act and the effectiveness of joint patrols could be limited by the complexity of the environment.

“The Sulu Sea littoral is very porous with plenty of small-craft movement, and this makes the identification and monitoring of vessels difficult,” said naval analyst Ridzwan Rahmat.

“In addition, the maritime landscape is littered with small islands that would enable militants to mask their movements or to hide,” noted Mr Ridzwan, who works for defence consultancy Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Mr Joseph Franco, a research fellow with RSIS' Centre of Excellence for National Security, said that it would be difficult to seal the Sulu Sea off without impinging on everyday trade.

“Even in piracy hotspots like the Horn of Africa, the challenge is to win against pirates on land, in their strongholds,” he added.

“On the open seas, naval forces are already reactive. We need to address the challenge of seaborne non-state armed groups on land before they even cast off to sea.”

Observers stress that governments in the region must recognise the complexity of the problem.

Mr Hernan Longo, a counter terrorism programme officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, stressed that no country can deal with modern terrorism alone.

He said it is crucial to have stronger cooperation in intelligence, law enforcement and programmes to deal with the use of technology for terrorist propaganda, recruitment and mobilisation of funds.

Governments need to keep up with the agility of extremist groups, he added.

“For any border control strategy to be effective, it requires simultaneously enhancing air surveillance and land ports, simply because criminals are adaptive; and the moment a particular route is shut down for them, they would swiftly look for … more vulnerable ones,” he said.

Military interventions alone are not a long-term solution to terrorism, as some extremist groups can trigger such a response from the government as a way to weaken peace talks, added Mr Longo, who is based in Bangkok.

It is necessary to take a sustained approach to address the decades-long conflict arising from social and economic grievances in Mindanao, he said, adding that there is also a need for a long-term peace process to deal with the evolving threat of IS-affiliates in the area.

“The relevant parties involved in the decades-long peace process should persist on it. In conjunction with other criminal justice measures, this reduces the risk of people turning to violence,” he added.

13 Marines slain in ‘intense’ Marawi battle as US forces assist AFP

InterAksyon (Jun 10): 13 Marines slain in ‘intense’ Marawi battle as US forces assist AFP

The explosion from a government air strike sends dark smoke and debris up into the air. (image from News5 video)

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — (UPDATE 4 – 2:49 p.m.) The Philippine Marines lost 13 troops in Marawi City Friday in what the military described as an “intense firefight” against extremist gunmen using hostages as human shields well into the night.

The heavy losses, confirmed in a press briefing early Saturday afternoon by Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman of Joint Task Force Marawi, followed the wounding of 16 Marines while trying to retake the Mapandi Bridge earlier in the day.

Herrera also acknowledged what the U.S. embassy in Manila had confirmed, that American special forces were assisting the military in Marawi. An embassy spokesperson said the assistance had been sought by the Philippines.

The injured personnel were taken to a medical facility in Iligan City Friday afternoon.

A wounded soldier is loaded onto a military truck for transport from Marawi to Iligan. (PNA photo)

The latest fatalities brought the total loss of lives on the government side to 58 since security forces began battling extremist gunmen from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, accompanied by some foreign fighters, on May 23, when President Rorigo Duterte declared martial law over Mindanao.

The military says more than 130 extremists have been killed. At least 20 civilians have also died.

Herrera also said more troops were wounded while the Marines also inflicted casualties on the extremists during the battle in Barangay Lilod Madaya but could give no immediate figures.

Also among Friday’s fatalities was a 14-year old boy who was hit by a sniper’s bullet as he prayed in a mosque near the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade at noon.

The officer said the troops of Marine Battalion Landing Team 7 were conducting clearing operations in Lilod Madaya when they were hit by heavy fire that included improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades from the extremists who had “optimized the use of human shields and mosques,” which they had turned into defensive positions.

He described the fighting as “house-to-house” but government troops were disadvantaged by the need to avoid civilian casualties or damage mosques.

Ambulances rushed in and out of the battle zone most of Friday and firing could be heard from almost all directions, the result, said the military, of simultaneous assaults on terrorist positions.

The spike in hostilities followed the military’s announcement that it hoped to clear Marawi by Monday, Independence Day.

The latest fighting has been marked by continuous air strikes on positions held by the extremists.

The escalating violence also came amid reports that Omar Khayyam Maute, one of two brothers who founded the extremist group named after them, had been killed and that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, earlier reported to have fled Marawi, had returned with reinforcements.

Herrera said they were still validating the reports of Omar’s death, which he said apparently happened in an earlier skirmish.

One soldier on a break from Friday’s fighting said they had cornered the extremists but acknowledged the difficulty of finally defeating them because of the cover provided by tall buildings and other structures.

This was evident in a drone video obtained by News5 that showed a group of gunmen entering a building, apparently to use it as a redoubt to attack the assaulting government troops.

In Manila, a US embassy spokesperson told Reuters: “At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that help AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants.”

Until now there had been no confirmation that the Philippines had sought U.S. assistance in the battle for Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, which is in its third week.

A US special forces soldier with a surveillance drone inside Camp Ranao in Marawi City in a photo obtained by News5.

But Herrera, asked if a specific request had been made for US assistance, said “the presence of (our) US counterparts facilitates (the) exchange of intelligence, subject matter experts, training exchanges, and technical support” as part of “existing agreements (and the) enduring partnership” between the two countries.
He stressed no U.S. troops were involved in combat operations.

However, he refused to comment on the presence of an American P-3 Orion plane that was seen flying over Marawi Friday.

The assistance comes after months of strain between the two long-time allies that was stoked by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s hostility toward Washington and his pledges to throw U.S. troops out of the country.

Washington deployed special forces soldiers to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise Philippine units fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in a program that once involved 1,200 Americans.

It was discontinued in 2015 but a small presence remained for logistics and technical support.

The United States and the Philippines have been allies for decades. Their relationship provided Washington with a strategic foothold in Asia, and offered Manila a shield against China’s assertiveness in the region.

But Duterte has openly scorned the alliance, seeing it as an obstacle to a rapprochement with China, and has repeatedly lambasted Washington for treating his country as a lackey.

Herrera also justified the use of “surgical” air strikes against the extremists, saying these had “softened and taken down” several strongholds, sniper’s nests and “command and control” centers.

US Special Forces Helping Philippines Fight Militants in Marawi

From the Voice of America (Jun 10): US Special Forces Helping Philippines Fight Militants in Marawi

Debris flies as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of Muslim militants as fighting continues in Marawi city, southern Philippines, June 9, 2017.

U.S. special forces are helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to end a siege of the southern town of Marawi by militants allied to Islamic State, a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Manila told Reuters Saturday.

The seizure of Marawi by hundreds of fighters who have sworn allegiance to Islamic State, including dozens from neighboring countries and the Middle East, has fueled concern that the ultra-radical group is gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia.

“At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that help AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants,” the spokesperson said. ASG stands for the Abu Sayyaf militant group.

The Philippine military Saturday confirmed that U.S special forces were assisting local troops to end a siege of the southern town of Marawi by militants allied to Islamic State, but said they were only providing technical support.

“They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera told a news conference.

No evidence of troops on ground

Until now there had been no confirmation that the Philippines had sought U.S. assistance in the battle for Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, which is in its third week.

The spokesperson gave no details of the U.S. involvement. A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town Friday, but there has been no evidence that the United States has put troops on the ground there.

A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance plane flies over Marawi city, southern Philippines as Philippine Air Force helicopters and bombers continue air strikes, June 9, 2017.

The assistance comes after months of strain between the two long-time allies that was stoked by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s hostility towards Washington and his pledges to throw U.S. troops out of the country.

Special forces deployed in 2002

Washington deployed special forces soldiers to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise Philippine units fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in a program that once involved 1,200 Americans.

It was discontinued in 2015 but a small presence remained for logistics and technical support.

The United States and the Philippines have been allies for decades. Their relationship provided Washington with a strategic foothold in Asia, and offered Manila a shield against China’s assertiveness in the region.

But Duterte has openly scorned the alliance, seeing it as an obstacle to a rapprochement with China, and has repeatedly lambasted Washington for treating his country as a lackey.

Military confirming reports Maute brothers killed in firefight

ABS-CBN (Jun 10): Military confirming reports Maute brothers killed in firefight

The military is confirming reports that Maute brothers Omar and Madie were killed in clashes between government troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City.

Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera on Saturday said there were "strong indications" that Omar and Madie, two of several Maute siblings tagged in terror activities, were killed in government offensives.

"There are reports that Omar and Madie were killed in the operations. We are still validating this report but there are strong indications that they [were] killed," he said in a press briefing.

Herrera, however, did not say when the terrorists were killed and in which specific operation. Firefights between government troops and terror groups are now into its third week.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año previously said President Rodrigo Duterte earlier offered a P5 million reward for the arrest of Omar and another Maute sibling Abdullah.

The reported death of the two extremists comes following the arrest of the Maute family's matriarch, Ominta Romato "Farhana" Maute, on Friday afternoon.

Farhana and two other injured Maute group members were arrested after their vehicle was intercepted in Brgy. Kormatan, Masiu town, ARMM Regional Police Director Reuben Theodore Sindac said.

Sources said Farhana, mother of the terror leaders, was the group's courier, financier, and link to foreign terror groups.

Herrera said Farhana has been transported away from Marawi City to a "safe place," and is now currently undergoing investigation.

He also confirmed that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was still in Marawi City.

Clashes had erupted between state forces and terror groups on May 23 following an attempt to arrest the terror leader, said to be the anointed ISIS chief in Southeast Asia.

The military earlier released a video of Hapilon and cohorts plotting attacks around Marawi City days before the siege began.

The Maute's patriarch, Cayamora Maute, was also apprehended Tuesday morning at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City.

Government troops have killed more than 100 terrorists since firefights began.

NPA wrecks mining laboratory, tailings dam in Benguet – police

From Rappler (Jun 9): NPA wrecks mining laboratory, tailings dam in Benguet – police

The Cordillera Philippine National Police says the Chadli Molintas Command based in Benguet also engaged the 54th Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division in a brief firefight, wounding one soldier and a civilian

DESTROYED. The New People's Army is said to have destroyed a mining laboratory and a tailings dam in Benguet. Photos by Frank Cimatu

DESTROYED. The New People's Army is said to have destroyed a mining laboratory and a tailings dam in Benguet. Photos by Frank Cimatu
BENGUET, Philippines – The police admitted Friday, June 9, that New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas were responsible for the destruction of a mining laboratory owned by a Chinese investor and the tailings dam of the Lepanto Mining Corporation in Mankayan, Benguet late Wednesday evening.

The Cordillera Philippine National Police said the Chadli Molintas Command based in Benguet also engaged the 54th Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division in a brief firefight, wounding one soldier and a civilian.

The police said they made their investigation at 4:00 am of Thursday. They added the floating copper processor located in Sitio Cabatuan in Colalo village and owned by Chinese investor Xian Jinrui Lianliungang was destroyed by the NPA using explosives.

Also destroyed were the newly-built police outpost and a backhoe owned by Colalo Chairman Ambino Padawi.

 WRECKED BUILDING. Photo by Frank Cimatu.

The police also interviewed the Chief Security of Lepanto Mining Division and they learned that the lime mixing plant and a Bulldozer owned by Flores Construction were also destroyed through explosives. Two unexploded bombs were left below a bulldozer and backhoe.

The police recorded the testimonies of two security guards posted at Dam 5 Gate and Quarry Area that the guerrillas, composed of 6 males and a female, approached them and took their hand-held radio with charger, hunting knife and pistol holder. They then tied their hands with a packing tape. They then proceeded to bomb the backhoe and plant.

The NPA guerrillas also engaged 6 members of the Philippine Army deployed at Dam 5.

Private First Class (PFC) Arthur Bag-ay, 38, was injured by shrapnel on the nape, while Jerson Guisguiswoang Awini, a Mankayan resident, was hit by a stray bullet on the right thigh. Awini was brought to the Luis Hora Hospital in Abatan, Bauko, Mt. Province and is now in stable condition.

4 cops unhurt in Eastern Samar roadside blast, ambush

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (Jun 9): 4 cops unhurt in Eastern Samar roadside blast, ambush

Four police officers were unscathed after they were ambushed by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Giporlos town, Eastern Samar early Thursday morning.

The police said on Friday a roadside bomb exploded when the patrol car boarded by the cops passed by an area in Sitio Salvacion, Barangay Biga around 6 a.m.

Eastern Samar police director Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar said the police officers were unhurt as the explosion did not directly hit the police vehicle, which was heading to Borongan City. The windshield of the patrol car was damaged though.

A 20-minute firefight then ensued between the policemen and the perpetrators, who later retreated.

Recovered from the scene were several parts of an improvised explosive device and empty shells of high-powered rifles. The police and military are now on the hunt for the suspected communist rebels.

3 former rebels receives livelihood assistance

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jun 9): 3 former rebels receives livelihood assistance

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Three former rebels, who recently returned to mainstream society, received P50,000 each as livelihood assistance from the National Government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (Clip).
The former rebels were also provided with socio economic interventions, capability building activities and livelihood trainings conducted by Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.
Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. urged the former rebels to properly utilize the financial aid as this will help them start and improve their lives and challenged them to support all initiatives of sustaining peace and prosperity in the province.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Anthony Ballug said the government, especially the local government units, are ready to provide assistance to rebels who opt to lay down their arms and live peacefully in the community.
Constant life on the run, hardship of life in the hills and the ever possibility of being killed are among the reasons the surrenderers decided to return to the folds of the law.
To date, the DILG provincial office reported that 17 former rebels availed of the P15,000 immediate financial assistance and the P50,000 worth livelihood assistance from the government.
CLIP focuses on the integration of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, who decide to abandon armed struggle and rejoin mainstream society.
 Cash incentives will also be given to rebels who will surrender their firearms.

Opinion: The foreign factor in Mindanao crisis

Opinion piece by Jose V. Romeo Jr. in the Manila Times (Jun 10): The foreign factor in Mindanao crisis

WHEN President Duterte mentioned in a talk that foreign fighters would regroup in Mindanao after their rout in the Middle East, I greeted the statement with some skepticism. But with the Marawi incident and the discovery of foreign fighters among the Maute band, I thought that the President must be some sort of Nostradamus.

As background, the Maute group, also known as the IS-Ranao, which figured prominently in the Marawi siege, is a radical Islamist group composed of former guerrillas of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guand some foreign fighters. The group is led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, or Islamic State based in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, Philippines. The group already figured in a clash with Army troops in February 2016 that ended with the capture of their headquarters in Butig, Lanao del Sur. The group is thought to have over 100 members and was supplied with equipment by a foreign terrorist. They are said to be affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamist terror group.

The Marawi incident is only one of a series of terroristic attacks perpetrated by entrenched heavily armed and foreign-funded lawless elements in the island. It is best to recall the history of the conflict in Mindanao by identifying the dramatis personae.


The Muslim militancy in Mindanao can be traced to the 1970s. After news of the Jabidah Massacre circulated, Malaysia began to fund, equip, support and provide training camps to Muslim rebels in Sulu and Mindanao.

 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari has admitted that he, along with other comrades, received training from Malaysia. But even with Malaysian, not to mention Libyan and other external support, the rebellion went on with no clear victory in sight. War weariness set in and prolonged support for the rebels already became a burden to their sponsors. In 1996, a peace agreement was signed between the Philippine government and MNLF, although this did not stop the fighting as a new Muslim rebel group, the MILF, came into being.

Today the government has entered into a peace process with the two groups which has resulted in a lull in the fighting.


Today dissident groups have emerged like mushrooms. From foreign reports we have heard, Indonesian operatives are already trading Syria-hardened tutors for weapons and training grounds in Mindanao. According to the same reports, Mindanao is apparently attracting insurgents from further afield. Mohammad Khattab, an alleged bomb-making instructor from Morocco, was reportedly among the five militants killed in Basilan earlier in April. There have been rumors of Muslim Uighurs from China in the area. And in January last year, Zulkifli bin Hir a.k.a. Marwan—a Malaysian described as a key facilitator between Indonesian and Filipino extremist groups—was cornered and killed in Mamasapano. In the Marawi incident, some half a dozen foreign terrorists have been killed by army troopers. Apparently, foreign terrorists are trying to establish an IS presence in Marawi City to gain a foothold in Mindanao in order to establish the island as part of the IS caliphate under the emirate of Isnilon Hapilon, a feat they failed to establish in Iraq and Syria.

 Terrorist groups identified

According to security expert Rommel Banloi, terrorist groups continue to pose a threat to the country’s political security and stability. These are the post-Cold War remnants of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), residual armed factions of the MNLF, lawless elements of theMILF, militant members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the al-Qaida-inspired followers of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the shadowy Moro Army Committee (MAC) and the Khilafa Islamiya (KI). His paper identifies current terrorist groups and emerging extremist armed movements operating in Mindanao as threats to Philippine national security. Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said foreign terrorists entered Marawi by using legitimate covers and through “porous” borders.

The Mautes

The Maute is a local armed group based largely in Lanao del Sur, and led by the Maute family. The government considers its members as terrorists. The military said government troops went to Marawi to serv a warrant of arrest on Hapilon, who was supposedly protected by the Mautes. The Abu Sayyaf and Maute have pledged allegiance to IS. This produced the deadly fire glitch that has caused hundreds of lives.

Khalifa Islamiya

The KI was organized by a young Muslim extremist sometime in early 2012. The group was responsible for the August 16, 2012 bombing of the Rural Bus Transit in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City.

The Moro Army Committee (MAC)

The Moro Army Committee (MAC) refers to the Muslim members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) operating in Central Mindanao. Philippine National Police (PNP) sources say that the MAC is a product of the tactical alliance between the NPA and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF. The Mindanao Commission of the CPP authorized the formation of the MAC as early as the late 1990s.

Al Khobar Group (AKG)

The AKG is more known as an extortion group operating in Mindanao, particularly in the cities of Tacurong, Kidapawan, Koronadal and General Santos. The exact date of its founding is not clear but the group became known in 2006. One of its leaders is believed to be Mukasid Dilna who is also accused of being a member of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the MILF. Thus, it is alleged that the Al Khobar is a special unit of the MILF whose primary task is to mobilize resources through extortion activities.

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)

The BIFF is the armed wing of the BIFM, a breakaway faction of the MILF. Ameril Umbra Kato, then commander of the 105th Base Command of the MILF, founded the BIFF in December 2010. On February 26, 2011, Kato renamed the BIFF as BIFM during its first general assembly, “owing to its increasing mass base.”

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Southern Philippines

The government initially denied the presence in the Philippine south of the JI terror group that is active in several Southeast Asian countries. But it has since admitted that some JI personalities are operating in the Philippines, particularly those accused of the 2002 Bali bombing. The raid of a terrorist camp in Butig, Lanao del Sur on July 16, 2012 indicated that foreign jihadists linked with JI continue to be active in Mindanao.

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

The United States classifies the ASG as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) for having been responsible for several high-profile terrorist bombings in the Philippines like the Zamboanga City bombing of 2002, the Davao City Airport bombing of 2003, the Super Ferry bombing of February 2004 and the Valentine’s Day bombing of 2005, among others. The ASG has also been suspected of having participated in the January 25, 2011 bus bombing in Makati City and many recent bombings in Mindanao in 2012. The ASG also carried out numerous kidnap-for-ransom activities in the Southern Philippines prompting Philippine law enforcement authorities to describe the ASG as a mere bandit group.

From the above, it would appear that the government has its hands full, forcing it to resort to the draconian approach of declaring martial law in Mindanao. If one considers that the eastern seaboard of the island is threatened by NPA guns for hire who make a living of exacting tributes from law-abiding businessmen; warlords in Central Mindanao pay mercenaries to control their fiefdoms which insure their political entrenchment; and that bandits in the west of the island make a living out of kidnapping, it is small wonder that the Duterte administration want the armed forces to control the political turmoil which apparently local officials are unable or unwilling to do since time immemorial making the land of promise the land of broken dreams.

Cordillera rebels own attacks on Benguet mining town

From InterAksyon (Jun 10): Cordillera rebels own attacks on Benguet mining town

The New People’s Army in the Cordillera region owned responsibility for attacks on Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and on an ore processing plant in Mankayan town, Benguet late Wednesday night.

(ALSO READ: Suspected Reds blast mining equipment, attack Lepanto tailings dam in Benguet)

A joint statement from the Chadli Molintas Command, the regional unit of the NPA, and the Jennifer Jennifer ‘Maria’ Cariño Command, which operates in Benguet, said the attack was “part of the continuing campaign of the revolutionary movement against the plunder and destruction of big mining companies” and the military, police and militias it accused of serving as the firms’ “security force.”

CMC spokesman Martin Montana and JCC spokesperson Sey-ang Ramos said guerrillas blasted earth moving equipment and a lime plant at Lepanto’s Tailings Dam 5A between Barangays Colalo and Cabiten.

They said the equipment was being used for quarrying and to build up the embankment of the tailings dam despite opposition from residents of Colalo who worry it could trigger another landslide similar to that in 1999 when the mountain shoulder where the village elementary school once stood eroded, destroying villagers’ homes.

Aside from the attack on Lepanto, the rebels also confirmed blasting and torching heavy equipment at aa carbon-in-pulp ore processing plant in Sitio Ampontoc, Barangay Colalo, which they said was built on land grabbed by the village chief from a local clan. They added that residents have protested the operation of the plant, which uses cyanide, fearing contamination of their water sources.

The guerrillas also bombed a community police action center beside the processing plant.

The operation took place from 10:30 p.m. Wednesday to midnight of Thursday.

Earlier, police said Army troops responded to the attack on the Lepanto tailings dam and engaged the rebels. A construction worker was reportedly wounded by a stray bullet.

President Duterte commends bravery of Armed Forces in Marawi siege

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 10): President Duterte commends bravery of Armed Forces in Marawi siege

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, June 9, commended the brave soldiers for their efforts to go after the extremists and uphold the rule of law.
In his visit to the 603rd Brigade in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, President Duterte underscored the bravery of the Armed Forces who have fought the terrorist Maute group in Marawi City.

“It is my honor to express our deepest admiration and gratitude [to] your fallen and wounded comrades who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our country safe and strong,” Duterte said in his speech.

He said the Filipino people will forever be grateful to the brave soldiers “who left their families and the comforts of their homes to defend our sovereignty and uphold the Constitution.”

“I commend you for your strong resolve in going after various terrorist and extremist groups in your area of [operations]. Because of your efforts to go after the enemy, we have upheld the rule of law,” Duterte said.

“Your hard work and relentlessness against illegal drugs have [also] resulted in the neutralization and apprehension of drug personalities and the confiscation of drugs and drug paraphernalia, making your area of responsibility safer from the drug menace,” he said.

“I pray that you will survive, all of you. And I’m very sad to have lost several of my soldiers and policemen,” Duterte said.

The President reiterated his full support to his soldiers, adding that they are now well equipped with brand new equipment.

“You will always have my support. At ang lahat ng binibili dito ngayon brand new. So kung ano ‘yung problema mo, sabihin mo sa akin, hindi kaya dito, o ‘di tawagan mo ako,” he said.

Duterte meanwhile said that as President of the Republic, it is painful for him to see Filipinos fighting their fellowmen.

“We do not want any war. I do not want war. Masakit para sa aking makita whether NPA, nakabulagta diyan. NPA, it’s Filipino. There’s a truism na you cannot fight your own people. ‘Yan ang pinakamasakit sa civil strife,” he said.

He however said there is always a limitation.

“They are the scourges of the land that we must rid of – swiftly and decisively – so that we can begin to rebuild our lives, homes and communities and regain the peace and freedom that our people long for,” the President said.

Duterte also underscored that he did not declare martial law to perpetuate himself in power.

“I think the Armed Forces and the Police would not aim for a war that would result in the killings of many lives,” he said.

The President meanwhile urged his countrymen to help in the reconstruction of Marawi when the siege is over.

“We have to help each other. Sabi ko, after all at the end of the day, Filipino tayo,” Duterte said. (PND)