Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Prisoners radicalised by detainee with militant links identified

From the High Tech Beacon (Oct 9): Prisoners radicalised by detainee with militant links identified

Police submits Budget 2018 proposals

"We've known for quite some time that he had been recruiting inmates [there], but we can't disclose when it started".

He said they had been arrested before on February 7, 2013, for involvement in terrorist activities.

An Albanian man who guest lectures at a public university was arrested October 1 after police intelligence indicated he is linked to members of the Islamic State terror group overseas.

He added that the suspect, who had just been released from prison, was arrested with a 37-year-old acquaintance in Tapah on Friday. "Those who have been radicalised have also been identified", he was quoted saying.

Policemen, army personnel and women were among those arrested in Malaysia before they travelled to Syria to join IS.

According to the Singapore paper, seven prison wardens had fallen under the influence of radicalised inmates past year, prompting the Malaysian Home Ministry to begin isolating prisoners held for militant activities to curb the spread of the terror ideology within the prison system.

The country's top cop said one of the suspects - a 53-year-old man- was also a former Internal Security Act detainee.

Five of them are Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants who have been arranging safe passage into Malaysia for their comrades since 2015.

The final arrests were of one man suspected of trying to organize attacks on places of worship, and a second who allegedly sought to recruit people to a local extremist group.

"We believe they were making travel arrangements for ASG militants into Malaysia".

Fears have been growing in Malaysia that Muslim militants are ramping up their activities, inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group and a conflict in Marawi city in the neighboring Philippines between jihadists and authorities.

"Two Malaysians, two Filipinos and another Filipino with Malaysian Permanent Resident (PR) status, all aged between 30 and 53 were arrested", he said in a statement.

The Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Fuzi Harun (pix) said that the first spate of arrests were made in Sandakan, Sabah on Sept 27.

The other suspect, a 37-year-old man is believed to have recruited two Malaysians to join TAQM.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in June past year wounded eight people.


Filipino Linked to NY Terror Plot Funded Islamic State Attack in Malaysia: FBI

From BenarNews (Oct 10): Filipino Linked to NY Terror Plot Funded Islamic State Attack in Malaysia: FBI


Malaysian forensic experts inspect the site of grenade attack at a restaurant outside Kuala Lumpur, June 28, 2016. AFP                

A Filipino doctor arrested on suspicion of funding a foiled terror plot in the United States also sent money to a man involved in the first and only attack claimed by Islamic State (IS) on Malaysian soil, FBI documents show.

Russell Salic, an orthopedic surgeon based in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, wired $426 to a man named Jasanizam Bin Rosni in Johor, Malaysia, on June 26, 2016, two days before a grenade blast injured eight patrons at the Movida nightclub in Puchong, according to the FBI. In August 2016, Malaysian authorities arrested Jasanizam, among other suspects, and charged him as a participant in the grenade attack.

Salic, who was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines, is awaiting extradition to the United States after federal authorities unsealed the charges against him and two men on Friday for allegedly plotting to attack targets in New York City.

Authorities said they thwarted the New York attacks after an undercover FBI agent, posing as an IS supporter, came in contact with the three suspects through electronic messaging apps. The suspects planned to explode bombs and open fire at targets in Times Square and concert venues in the name of the Islamic State during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan last year, prosecutors said.

U.S. court documents obtained by BenarNews said Salic also sent $423 (about 21,650 pesos) from Cagayan de Oro to the undercover agent using his Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) identification card, which identified him as a physician. It also showed his photograph, officials said.

Salic used the same identification card to wire the money from the same Western Union branch to his Malaysian contact and to the FBI agent in the United States, according to the unsealed court papers.

“I believe that the Malaysian [funds] that Salic sent four days before the Malaysia nightclub attack … is consistent with [Salic’s] statements indicating that he was involved in funding not only the NYC plot, but also the activities of other ISIL supporters in other countries,” said FBI Special Agent Cody Haven in an affidavit, referring to IS by another acronym.

The court documents said Salic sent funds to suspected terrorists in Syria, Australia, Lebanon and Palestine. All money transfers were sent from the same Western Union branch in Cagayan de Oro city.

Salic faces seven charges, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, which carry penalties of life imprisonment.

In Manila over the weekend, Philippine military chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Salic had been funding suspected terrorists in various countries.

“He was involved in terror activities by providing funds and donations to suspected terrorists in the Middle East, U.S., and Malaysia from 2014 up to 2016,” Año told reporters, according to Rappler, a Philippine news portal.

“He has been under watch and surveillance for his suspicious activities in coordination with allied foreign intelligence agencies,” he said.

Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the Malaysian police chief, said his office was probing reports about the 37-year-old Filipino surgeon’s alleged involvement in the Malaysian nightclub attack, but said he could not say if the government would seek Salic’s extradition.

“We will check and investigate because this is an allegation, very serious matter,” Fuzi told Malay Mail Online. “I cannot confirm at this moment.”

“That one is a long process, not an easy process,” he said, referring to the extradition.

8 suspects arrested in Malaysia

As Malaysian authorities were exploring Salic’s links to the June 2016 attack at the Movida nightclub, a high-ranking security official told BenarNews on Monday that five of eight terrorism suspects arrested across the country during the last two weeks were based in the eastern state of Sabah and involved in smuggling fighters to the nearby southern Philippines.

The eight suspects were arrested in Sabah, Selangor and Perak states between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 on suspicion of involvement in terror-related activities. They were arrested under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), authorities said.

In the first series of arrests, two Malaysians and three Filipinos, including one with Malaysian permanent resident status, were arrested on Sept. 27 in Sabah, on the island of Borneo. They were allegedly involved in helping members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) enter Malaysia.

“Other than smuggling ASG members [into Malaysia], we believe they are responsible for smuggling terrorists to the southern Philippines, including Marawi, making Malaysia a transit point whether to undergo training or join the Abu Sayyaf Group,” a security source told BenarNews.

ASG, led by Philippine IS chief Isnilon Hapilon, launched an attack on the southern city of Marawi on May 23 and remains entrenched in vicious fighting there that has killed at least 774 militants, 158 government troops and dozens of civilians.

On Oct. 1, 2017 a 35-year-old Albanian, who is a guest lecturer at a local public university, was also detained in Selangor, on suspicion of involvement with militants overseas, police said.

Five days later, police also arrested and detained two suspects who were previously arrested over terror connections in Tapah, Perak. During the past few years, Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over their alleged links to terror groups.


ISIS Fanatics Plot New York Attacks From 'Terror Breeding Ground' The Philippines

From Newsweek (Oct 9): ISIS Fanatics Plot New York Attacks From 'Terror Breeding Ground' The Philippines (By Jack Moore)

A terror suspect from the Philippines charged with funding an attack in New York City in the name of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has warned that his country is a “breeding ground for terrorists.”

The Justice Department said that 37-year-old Russell Salic, who was arrested in the Philippines in April, suggested that other Filipino jihadis were plotting to attack the West, including major U.S. cities.
"Terrorists from all over the world usually come here as a breeding ground for terrorists... hahahaha... But no worry here in Philippines. They dont care bout IS... Only in west," he said in a message to others implicated the plot, according to a statement.

U.S. authorities charged Salic, from the southern Philippine province of Mindanao, with involvement and the funding of a plan in which two other jihadis wanted to carry out the “next 9/11” during Ramadan. The targets included concert venues, the New York’s subway and Times Square.

An undercover FBI agent foiled the plot after getting into contact with the three men. One of them, 19-year-old Abdulrahman El Bahnasaway, had traveled from Canada to New Jersey before authorities arrested him in May 2016.

In exchanges, the jihadi sent an FBI agent a picture of Times Square alongside text that read: “We seriously need to car bomb times square. Look at these crowds of people!”

El Bahnasaway also said that he wished to "shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot of people."

Philippine Marines soldiers in a cleared street but still in range of enemy sniper fire as they walk towards the main battle area on July 22, 2017 in Marawi, southern Philippines. Jes Aznar/Getty
Salic sent around $423 to fund preparations for the attack and said that he would send more, the department said, adding that he bragged that he could do so without detection.

The plot appeared to draw inspiration from the Paris attacks in November 2015, when an ISIS cell of Belgian and French jihadis targeted a concert hall, restaurants, bars and France’s national football stadium with guns and suicide bombings in what remains the deadliest ISIS attack on European soil.

The threat posed by ISIS fighters and pro-ISIS jihadis to Western security services has increased because of the ability to seemingly direct or inspire attacks from outside of their jurisdictions.

Since May, Filipino jihadis have been waging an offensive against the country’s army in the southern city of Marawi, and hundreds of radical Islamists are still believed to be fighting Philippine forces in the city. The conflict has cost the lives of almost 1,000 people.

There are three Muslim-majority provinces in the southern Philippines where a Muslim insurgency is raging, led by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute militant groups, both of which have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Evidence has surfaced indicating that the jihadis besieging the city are in touch with ISIS central command in Syria, which has been funneling funds to Southeast Asian militants to help the offensive.

ISIS regularly threatens to attack the U.S. or call for its supporters to launch attacks there. New York City was the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history, the 9/11 hijackings in 2001, that left almost 3,000 people dead.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is waging a war against both drug gangs and jihadists in the country, has been at odds with the U.S. over its criticism of his policies. But Duterte has softened his position since the inauguration of President Donald Trump and has welcomed Washington’s assistance in the fight against pro-ISIS jihadis. Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House in the fall during a May phone call.


Siege of Marawi: How Philippines insurgency provided fertile recruiting ground for extremists

From The National (Oct 9): Siege of Marawi: How Philippines insurgency provided fertile recruiting ground for extremists (By Florian Neuhof)

Fighters from the ISIL affiliated Maute Group have been hemmed into a small area in Marawi, but the duration of the siege, destruction of the city and insufficient relief efforts all play into the hands of the jihadists

Government soldiers stand guard in front of damaged building and houses in Sultan Omar Dianalan boulevard at Mapandi district in Marawi city, southern Philippines. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

Government soldiers stand guard in front of damaged building and houses in Sultan Omar Dianalan boulevard at Mapandi district in Marawi city, southern Philippines. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

The three-storied house is the largest of the intermittent buildings flanking a grassy side street in the desolate outskirts of Marawi. Its exterior walls are so riddled with bullets it’s surprising they have not crumbled and collapsed. In the gloomy interior, ammunition pouches, discarded clothing and copies of the Quran lie scattered.

It was here that Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the ISIL-affiliate Abu Sayyaf, was cornered by the army on May 23. By bagging the notorious terrorist, the raid should have resulted in a significant victory for the government in its struggle against a growing Islamist insurgency. But a shoot-out ensued, and the soldiers quickly realised they had stirred a hornets’ nest.

Heavily armed jihadists appeared out of nowhere, and the unit was soon surrounded, and eventually forced to withdraw. Hapilon was not caught, and Abu Sayyaf continues to menace

The botched raid ignited a tinderbox. The Maute Group, another local terror group that had pledged allegiance to ISIL, had secretly massed hundreds of fighters in the city. It seized the opportunity to take control of the "Islamic City of Marawi", the only Muslim majority city in the Philippines, taking hostages, killing policemen and burning down a church.

"They were in the city already. Some of them were locals, some of them were not," says Mohammed Khalid Al Mama, a youngster who lives near the Abu Sayyaf hideout and witnessed the raid.

As the population fled the city, the military moved in, kicking off an ongoing siege of the city on the southern island of Mindanao. After months of heavy fighting and intense aerial bombardment, a few dozen remaining Maute fighters have been hemmed into a small area in the city centre, but continue to hold out as the military leadership is reluctant to lose more soldiers and endanger the lives of the hostages.

The military will eventually succeed in wiping out the last pocket of fighters. But the duration of the siege, the widespread destruction of the city and insufficient relief efforts for the displaced population all play into the hands of the jihadists.

"The Marawi siege has been a categorical win for Maute and for the Islamic State," says Justin Richmond, a former US special forces operative deployed in the southern Philippines who founded impl.project, a development consultancy working in Mindanao. "The insurgency is stronger now. They have lost people but they are going to gain that back. This is going to be a prolonged fight."

Several hundred of the roughly 1,000 fighters that took over Marawi are thought to have slipped through the military's cordon. At the same time, the Maute Group is recruiting again on its home turf in Butig, a remote municipality south-west of Marawi. New recruits receive a signing on bonus of US$600 (Dh2,204), says Mr Richmond, a small fortune in the poverty-stricken area.

A Muslim young girl holds a placard after noon prayers for the Marawi siege and the plight of Rohingyas, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Dondi Tawatao / Reuters

Together with other militant groups, the Maute Group had been gathering strength since the US pulled its special forces and advisers from the Philippines in 2015.

Led by the brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, it had been successful in tapping into the grievances of the Muslim minority, which is concentrated on the western part of Mindanao and a series of smaller islands on the edge of the Sulu Sea, which separates the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), of which Marawi is part, is poor even by Philippine standards, and Muslims are widely looked down on by their Christian countrymen. To make things worse, corruption in the region is endemic at all levels of local government, entrenching poverty and stymieing economic development. Social mobility is hampered by the dominant clans in the jungle hinterlands that make up much of the region.

"The main problem of the Muslims in the Philippines and especially in the ARMM is the corruption. In all aspects, there is corruption," says Alikman Nata, a local volunteer aid worker and head of the Lanao Muslim Youth organisation.

Corruption is the main reason why despairing Muslims join jihadist groups, says Farouk Ali, a senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a powerful armed movement.

Government soldiers take cover behind a military truck, as they take up positions in Marawi City. Erik De Castro / Reuters

"Corruption is always there. Not only in the ARMM [administration], also in the municipals, down to the wards," says Mr Ali, who is in Marawi to help co-ordinate the MILF’s response to the crisis with the military.

After years of insurgency on Mindanao, the MILF has engaged in negotiations with the government, and in 2014 signed a peace deal that, if implemented, would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with even more wide-ranging autonomy under the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Commonly referred to as the BBL, the law still has to be ratified by parliament. The government's hesitancy to implement the BBL has angered Mindanao's Muslims, and many locals believe the decision of the Maute brothers to turn to violence was over the delay.

"It was the failure of the BBL that started their radicalisation," says Agakhan Sharief, an influential local religious figure in Marawi who runs an Islamic schooling programme.

"The failure of the BBL is a huge blow to the legitimacy of the government. It reinforces the ISIS narrative," says Mr Richmond. "The BBL isn't just a peace process, it’s a fundamental recognition of the Bangsamoro identity, and a validation of the Muslim identity."

Bangasamoro is the local vernacular for Maranao Nation. Maranao is an ancient term used for the inhabitants of the autonomous region, and derives its name from Lake Lanao, on which shores Marawi lies.

Debris and smoke seen after an OV-10 Bronco aircraft released a bomb during an air strike, as government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Philippines on June 20, 2017. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters
Around 250,000 Maranaos from Marawi and nearby areas have been displaced to the surrounding countryside and towns by the fighting. The government response to the humanitarian crisis has been poor. Families are piled into abandoned buildings or other makeshift shelters, or languish in rudimentary tent camps on small clearings in the jungle. Supplies of food and other aid are inadequate.

The prolonged battle has not only kept them from their homes. It has also destroyed much of the city, meaning that the displaced have nowhere to return to. This is feeding a resentment that the Mautes have been encouraging by releasing propaganda videos of the destruction in Marawi.

"If the condition continues until two months from now, it will [create] more sympathisers. Because they will take it as discrimination, they will take it as oppression, and they will take it as they are not being cared for and they are not being valued," says Aslani Montila, a local aid worker that helps run an overcrowded informal shelter in a disused seminary in the nearby town of Iligan.


Read more:

Philippine forces struggle to defeat Muslim extremists in Marawi


Mr Sharief, who maintains close ties to the displaced community, says that some Marawi men have already joined the Maute Group since the siege began.

The Mautes are not the only violent Islamist group posing problems for the government. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, enjoys substantial support from the local population and is more formidable force than the Mautes, says Mr Richmond.

The delay in bringing further autonomy to Muslim Mindanao is strengthening the insurgents at the expense of the MILF.

"The problem the [Front] has is that the BBL isn't moving, so they don't really have anything to offer to their constituents," says Mr Richmond.

Many of the younger fighters in the organisation had become disillusioned, and joined the Maute Group or the Freedom Fighters. Even Omar and Abdullah Maute began their militant careers with the MILF before forming their own group.

A convoy of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte maneuvering next to a damaged mosque and buildings in Marawi. EPA

Mr Sharief, who knows Abdullah and Omar personally, and who has in the past acted as an intermediary between the MILF and the government, was sent into the Marawi several times to negotiate the release of hostages at the beginning of the siege. Each time he went, he recognised Maute fighters he knew from their time in the MILF, he says.

President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged to make the BBL a priority. If he cannot get parliament to pass the law, the MILF will probaly resume its fight against the government. Some of the more firebrand commanders are already keen to resume the armed struggle, says Mr Sharief.

"I have talked to [Front] commanders. They said, 'If we cannot support ISIS, we will start a new war, because we believe the government is not sincere with this agreement,'" he says.

A further destabilisation of the southern Philippines is not a problem for Manila alone. The vast, impenetrable jungle of Mindanao and an increasingly supportive Muslim population are an ideal breeding ground for a violent extremism that can spread throughout the entire region.

Ramon Penas / The National

If the government fails to quell the insurgency in Mindanao, it will provide aspiring jihadists from abroad with skills and experience they can bring to bear in their home countries. There will be no shortage of foreign recruits.

"What we are going to see is that Mindanao is where everyone comes to fight. So if you want to get your combat experience in, and you're from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh or Singapore, come to Mindanao to fight, and then take that experience back to your own country and then radicalise it," says Mr Richmond.

Militant groups in the Philippines:

Fighters in the Philippines often move between Islamic militant groups, some of which have disbanded over the years while others have spurted from bigger organisations.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was established in the early 1970s and led by Nur Misuari, fought for independence from the central government in the Moro region.

A ceasefire was brokered in 1976, after which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) broke off from the MNLF rejecting Manila’s offer of semi-autonomy of the regions in dispute and continued insurgency operations.

Meanwhile, Abu Sayyaf Group was established in 1991 from radical members of the old MNLF who wanted to continue fighting for an independent Islamic state. Abu Sayyaf continues to wreak havoc in Marawi, the only Muslim majority city in the Philippines, engaging in kidnappings and extortion. Its leader, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, swore an oath to ISIL in 2014.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a landmark peace agreement with the government that saw the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

MILF and the Philippine government signed a peace agreement in Kuala Lumpur in 2014 for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous region called Bangsamoro.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was established in 2008 after its founder – who was a member of MILF – disagreed with the Front’s acceptance of autonomy rather than full independence.

Ansar Al Khalifah Philippines (AKP) also broke away from MILF and, in 2014, pledged allegiance to ISIL.

Meanwhile, the Maute Groupe, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, was established in 2013 and made up of former MILF fighters.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, Ansar Al Khalifah Philippines, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Maute Group, along with local clans and foreign fighters are the current force in Marawi.

Suspected rebels kill farmer in NorthCot

From MindaNews (Oct 9): Suspected rebels kill farmer in NorthCot

Suspected New People’s Army rebels killed a farmer in Magpet, North Cotabato whom they tagged as an informant of the 39th IB, police said.

The police station of Magpet, North Cotabato identified the victim as Bebs Nero Quino, 32.

Quino was inside a cockpit in Barangay Balite when three unidentified men who identified themselves as NPA rebels approached and brought him just a few meters away from the area.

Minutes later, residents heard gunshots and saw his lifeless body of Quino, police added.

Police quoted a witness as saying that after making sure their target was dead, the gunmen took the his motorcycle and later brought it to his house in Barangay Kamada.

The witness, a relative of the victim, added that the gunmen told the wife what they did to her husband.

In a text message sent to a radio station here, the sender who said he was the witness expressed his frustration over what happened.

“The rebels should have done more investigation on the victim’s alleged links to the 39th IB before they executed him. Many times the victim had proved the allegations against him were wrong, yet, they still killed him,” the witness said in Cebuano.

Quino was the second person reported to have been killed by the NPA in Magpet this month.

On October 3, alleged rebels shot dead Kagawad Valeriano Birondo of Barangay Mahongkog.

Birondo was on his way to his farm when waylaid by suspected rebels. He sustained gunshot wounds in the head and chest.

The NPA has yet to issue a statement on the killings.


Reds hit military training of Lumads

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 9): Reds hit military training of Lumads

The New People’s Army (NPA) decried the action of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s 10th Infantry Division to bring in Lumad fighters after the army announced earlier this month it would be training indigenous peoples into its army.

In a statement, Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesperson for the regional operations command of the Southern Mindanao Region, called the move “highly despicable” and demanded that the military back off from recruiting the Lumads.

Sanchez said that recruiting Lumads into counter-insurgency will exploit the Lumad youth.

The AFP had announced it would be arming and training 300 Lumad youths from Davao, Cotabato, and Socskargen regions.

“The move is a desperate attempt of the AFP to score military points in the battlefield where its troops are required to have mastery of terrain, high tolerance for sacrifice and to exhibit innate courage – attributes that they sorely lack and want to exploit from the Lumad youth,” Sanchez said.

The rebel group said it was tasteless of the national government to recruit members of indigenous groups who were allegedly abused by the military.


NPA rebels attack pineapple plantation in Bukidnon

From Rappler (Oct 10): NPA rebels attack pineapple plantation in Bukidnon

(UPDATED) Communist fighters from the South Central Bukidnon Subregional command confiscated 22 high-powered firearms from Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation's security force

Around 70 New People’s Army (NPA) fighters attacked the facilities of the Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation (Davco) in Barangay Merangeran, Quezon town, Bukidnon on Sunday, October 8.

This was confirmed by Captain Norman Tagros, spokesperson of the army's 403rd Infantry Brigade.

"The attackers were able to enter the compound and burn one boom spray tractor, one boom harvester, two nurse trucks, and one generator sets while stealing three shotguns, and one caliber 9mm pistol from the security guards," Tagros said on Tuesday, October 10.

In an email on Monday, October 9, Ka Malem Mabini, spokesperson of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Region, said the NPA rebels from the South Central Bukidnon Subregional command attacked Del Monte Philippines Incorporated, and confiscated 15 high-powered firearms from the security force.

However, the NPA clarified on Tuesday that what it attacked was Davco, not Del Monte, and that they confiscated 22 firearms.

Davco produces and exports pineapples fruits, employing Bukidnon residents.

The Philippine Army condemned the attack.

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said the attack was a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), a document signed by both the Philippine government and the CPP.

"The incident is another violation of CARHRIHL when the NPA deliberately and dastardly attacked civilians and their properties," Martinez said.

Martinez added that the attack was the NPA's way of compelling companies and other small business entities to give in to their extortion demands.

"The immediate impact on this is the possible loss of job of the locals whose source of income only depends on the said company," Martinez added.

"Support to law enforcement operation is in effect, and we are currently gaining information from the concerned civilians as we pursue the perpetrators," Martinez said.

[*In an earlier version of this story, we reported, based on the NPA claim, that the facility attacked was that of Del Monte Philippines Incorporated. It has been corrected to reflect the target, the Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation, based on a clarification made by the NPA and the Army.]


AFP: Foreigners taking charge in Marawi siege

From Tempo (Oct 10): AFP: Foreigners taking charge in Marawi siege

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have estimated that about eight foreign terrorists are still with the remaining Maute bandit group holed up in Marawi City.

According to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año. These foreigners are said to be acting as leaders of local terrorists who are remnants of the Maute group which has been terrorizing the city since its attack last May 23.

Año said the report is based on the information provided by local residents and that these foreigners are said to be suicidal, prompting the military to exert extra care in the ongoing operations to avoid a backlash on the estimated 40 hostages.

AFP spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla said Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute leader Omar Maute are still believed to be with the group.

With regards to the remaining hostages still being held by the enemy, Padilla said there are only a few remaining.

“Sa bilang ng hostages kaunti nalang ang naiiwan at sinisikap nating makuha sila sa maayos na paraan,” said Padilla.

Padilla also reiterated that rescuing the remaining hostages is not easy considering the dangers and risk troops are facing.

He said aside from sniper fire, the presence of IEDs or improvise explosives devices has to be considered.

Padilla said as of latest count, the total number of government forces killed as a result of the conflict which started when Maute Group terrorists occupied Marawi last May 23, is now 158 while those wounded has already reached more than 1,600.

Padilla said majority of those who got hurt are back in the frontline fighting the terrorists.

Meanwhile, the number of buildings still need to be cleared from IEDs are about 200.

Año earlier expressed optimism that they could finish off the Marawi crisis before the end of October.


‘The Doctor’ financed Maute – military

From the Manila Times (Oct 10): ‘The Doctor’ financed Maute – military

ISLAMIC State (IS) financier Russell Langi Salic supported the Maute group that attacked Marawi City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Monday.
This was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman for the AFP, as he clarified that Salic was not related to former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Salic, also a Maute supporter.

“He (Russell Salic) is believed to be providing funds and materials to the Maute terrorists and he has a nickname ‘Doctor’…He does not have any relationship with the former Marawi mayor. Our investigation is still ongoing,” Padilla told dzMM radio, in Filipino.

Salic, 37, has been under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation since he surrendered to authorities in April, the military said.

Padilla admitted that the Philippines had become a “breeding ground” for terrorists, noting that the country’s anti-terrorism laws were less strict compared with those of other countries.

“It is true that the Philippines is becoming a breeding ground [for terrorists]because our law against terrorism is less strict. In Singapore and Malaysia, their legislations against terrorism are strong,” he said.

Salic, an orthopedic surgeon based in Cagayan de Oro City, has been charged by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) for financing a plot to bomb New York City last year. The AFP said Salic’s activities had been monitored since 2014.

He is accused of wiring $423 to the US to help fund the plot.

Salic, the US DoJ said, told an undercover FBI agent posing as an IS member that terrorists all over the world have been coming over to the Philippines to train and recruit terrorists.

Under probe

Salic is also under investigation over his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and beheading of two sawmill workers in April 2016 in Butig, Lanao del Sur, which the military had blamed on the Maute group.

Four other sawmill workers were set free and told authorities they saw Salic in the Maute camp where they were detained, senior assistant state prosecutor Peter Ong told Agence France-Press.

“The complainants said they saw him in an adjacent room full of guns. He was cleaning guns,” Ong said, quoting from the workers’ depositions.

Salic had denied the allegation and said he was in another province then, according to Ong, who is handling the investigation and has yet to decide whether to charge Salic in court.

‘So much democratic space’

AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año echoed his spokesman, saying that the Philippines had enjoyed “so much democratic space” that allowed terrorist groups to operate and expand membership.

“That is true because you know, the country enjoys so much democratic space that [it]is being exploited by terror groups and also criminal groups, unlike in other countries like Singapore, US, Malaysia and Australia. They have a very strict internal security act,” Año told reporters in a news briefing.


Government troops kill ASG kidnap cell leader

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 10): Government troops kill ASG kidnap cell leader

Government troops in Tawi-Tawi killed on Sunday morning a bandit leader who is a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and also leader of a kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) cell involved in the kidnapping of a German national in November 2016.
Reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi identified the killed bandit leader as Guro Idzri alias Idris.
Operating elements of Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi were conducting a Law Enforcement Operation (LEO) at Sitio Suwang Kagang, Brgy. Pasiagan, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi when they encountered Idzri.

The Joint Task Force is composed of members from the 2nd Marine Brigade, Mechanized Infantry Division, 9th Marine Battalion Landing Team, and Bonggao Municipal Police Station.

“When the troops were about to serve the warrant of arrest, Idzri fired at them using his caliber .45 pistol prompting our troops to fire back,” said Brigadier General Custodio Parcon Jr, commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-tawi.

The wounded bandit was immediately brought to Datu Halun Sakilan Memorial hospital by members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), but he was declared dead on arrival there.

Among the items recovered from Idzri were a Caliber 45 pistol, a magazine loaded with five bullets and two empty shells. The JTF-Tawi Tawi turned-over all recovered items to the Bonggao Muncipal Police Station for proper disposition.

Kidnap for ransom leader
Before the encounter, Idzri had been monitored studying a prospective kidnap victim at the construction site of a diesel power plant in Brgy Pahut, Bonggao, Tawi-Tawi.

Idzri, formerly a member of the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf under Muamar Askali, was suspected to have been involved in the kidnapping of German national, Jurgen Kantner, who was beheaded early this year.
Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, Jr., commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, said: “The very good collaboration among our security sector, the local government unit and the peace-loving people in Tawi-tawi resulted to this recent success.”

“As long as everyone is united in fighting criminality and terrorism, evil will never be able to thrive in a community. I congratulate every marine, army, sailor, airman, policeman and other members of the security forces in Tawi-tawi Province for a job well done,” he added.

ASG man surrenders

Meanwhile, in Sulu, a machine gunner of the ASG surrendered to government troops, turning over his caliber.30 machine gun.
JTF-Sulu Commander Brig Gen Cirilito Sobejana identified the ASG member as Jul Asbi Misuari alias Imbuh.

Misuari surrendered to the task force at about 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7. His surrender was facilitated by the 545ECB, supported by personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard Guard-Sulu.

Misuari was a trusted follower of Alhabsy Misaya, who was killed in a shootout with soldiers of the JTF- Sulu in Indanan, Sulu.
He served as the local contact of the Abu Sayyaf and kidnap for ransom groups in the island of Bangui-ngui.

Contemplating surrender
“Misuari revealed that there are more Abu Sayyaf members who are already contemplating surrender as a result of the relentless operations and pressure employed by the JTF Sulu to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf and kidnap for ransom members, particularly at their staging areas in the islands of Sulu,” said Sobejana.

Current efforts are now being exerted by the JTF SULU to facilitate the surrender of other Abu Sayyaf members under the group of Misuari.

“At the start of the year, focused military operations of the different Joint Task Forces were intensified to defeat the Abu Sayyaf, constricting the movements of the bandits and compelling them to surrender to our forces,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines, Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) Commander Lt Gen Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.

In Sulu, 24 ASG members have already surrendered since January of this year.

4 generals in the running for Armed Forces chief–Lorenzana

From the Manila Times (Oct 10): 4 generals in the running for Armed Forces chief–Lorenzana

TWO Army soldiers, one from the Air Force and one from the Navy are vying for the highest position in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
In a text message late Monday, Lorenzana said four three-star generals were “in the running” to replace the incumbent Eduardo Ano who would retire in 16 days.

The four are: Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom); Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom); Lt. Gen. Salvador Melchor B. Mison Jr., AFP vice chief of staff; and Vice Adm. Narciso Vingson Jr., deputy chief of staff of the AFP.

Guerrero and Galvez are from the Philippine Army, Mison from the Philippine Air Force; and Vingson from the Philippine Navy.

However, Guerrero and Mison are “mistahs” (classmates) in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) being both members of its “Maharlika” Class of 1984. Their upperclassman was Ano, who graduated in 1983.

Meanwhile, Galvez and Vingson graduated from the PMA in 1985 or the “Sandiwa” Class.


AFP and PNP strengthen ties in face of threat groups

From the Business Mirror (Oct 9): AFP and PNP strengthen ties in face of threat groups

The police and the military agreed on Monday to further strengthen their collaborative efforts in the investigation and prosecution of leaders of threat groups, as the country grapples with the problem of terrorism.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald M. dela Rosa and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo M. Año signed the resolution creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (Iacla) during the 20th Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-PNP National Joint Peace and Security Council (JPSC) Meeting at Camp Crame.

The Iacla adds up to the number of agreements on coordination and collaboration between the police and military in the areas of peace and security, including the JPSCC.

“As shown, the country is beset with a lot of threat groups, starting with the Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute Group, Ansar al Khalifa Philippines, BIFF [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters], including the (NPA [New Peoples’ Army], and now the establishment of a [base] in the Philippines and the linkages of these groups to international terrorists. So this poses seriously to national security,” Año said during a news briefing.

“That’s why this interagency committee on legal offensive will be in charge in intelligence gathering and cooperation, investigation, prosecution and monitoring cases against leaders against personalities of these terrorist groups,” he added.

Año cited the case of Dr. Russel Salic, the alleged doctor of the Maute Group and who allegedly helped financed a thwarted plan by the Islamic State to bomb selected targets in the United States, taking advantage of lax Philippine laws.

“You know, the country enjoys so much democratic space that is being exploited by terror groups and also criminal groups. Unlike in other countries like Singapore, US, Malaysia, Australia, they have a very strict internal security act,” Año said.

He added these countries have special provisions wherein they could arrest and detain a person up to three years “by mere suspicion based on information” until it is determined that the person is a member or part of a terrorist group.

Año said while the country has the Human Security Act, they have been asking that it be amended because they believed that “it’s not enough to address the threats against terrorism”.

According to the chief of staff, Salic, who is under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation where he surrendered, is a part of the logistics-support network of the international terrorist group.

Salic’s debriefing and investigation is continuing, although Año said he had disclosed information, it would be premature to disclose any details yet to the public.

On the other hand, dela Rosa said terrorist groups have chosen to operate in the country because of its “more relaxed laws”, noting that even the “mere national ID system” is having a hard time getting the nod of legislators.

“We have been clamoring for that, but it’s a very uphill battle,” he added.


Islamic State’s backdoor to the Philippines

From The Brief section of the Asia Times (Oct 10): Islamic State’s backdoor to the Philippines (By Bong S. Sarmiento)

The sleepy township of Sarangani, long known for farming, fishing and peaceful Muslim migration, has emerged as a global terror passage point

Philippine soldiers from the Marines 1st Brigade patrol take up positions as troops continue clearing operations against the pro-Islamic State militant group in Marawi city, September 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Marconi Navales

Philippine soldiers from the Marines 1st Brigade patrol take up positions as troops continue clearing operations against the pro-Islamic State militant group in Marawi city, September 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Marconi Navales
At every stroke of midnight, Sarangani township on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao is plunged into darkness until the break of dawn as electricity is cut to save on scarce energy.
Nine hours away by boat from the nearest urban center of General Santos City, few four-wheeled vehicles ply the streets of the township’s fish-producing island, the southernmost tip of Mindanao.
Here, Indonesians have mixed well with Filipinos, with thousands eventually forging intermarriages in an island-to-island migration that has thrived for at least four generations.

It’s now also viewed by Philippine security forces as a stepping stone for global jihadists bent on wreaking havoc on the southern island of Mindanao, where Islamic State-aligned groups are now active.
In search of greener pastures, the first Indonesian migrants crossed the Celebes Sea (known as the Sulawesi Sea by Indonesians) separating the Philippines and Indonesia in the early 1900s.

“In three to four hours by pump boat, we can be at the nearest Indonesian territory,” Cesar Hadir, an Indonesian descendant married to a Filipina on the island’s municipality told Asia Times.

Sarangani has emerged as a global terror passageway. Wikimedia Commons/Eugene Alvin Villar

The migratory route was off-the-radar of Philippine security enforcers, which until now allowed Indonesian families to engage in coconut farming and fishing activities on the remote island.

Months ago, however, the Celebes Sea emerged as a vital security flashpoint in the wake of the siege of Marawi City by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group.

Manila and Jakarta have since closely cooperated to intensify security measures in Celebes Sea waters to thwart the possible reinforcement of Indonesian militants with the Maute Group fighting the Philippine military in a battle that has raged for over four months and destroyed most of Marawi, a major Islamic city in the Catholic-dominated nation.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año told reporters in June that some 40 foreign Islamic State members, mostly Indonesians, are fighting alongside the Maute Group in Marawi.

The revelation prompted President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously warned that foreign militants often blended in as sheepishly clothed Islamic missionaries, to place all of Mindanao under martial law. Other foreign fighters in the Marawi battle have hailed from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Año claims that Islamic State eyes Asia as its next theater of war, with its first gaze set on the Philippines, as the terror organization faces defeat in the Middle East.

Military officials say the Maute Group’s siege of Marawi, joined by forces with the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group, another Islamic State-aligned militant group based in Mindanao, was an attempt to establish an Islamic State “wilayah”, or province, in Southeast Asia.

Philippine soldiers battle the Islamic State-linked Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Philippines June 2, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who carries a US$5 million bounty on his head from the United States and about US$195,000 from the Philippine government, is known to have been designated Islamic State’s ‘emir’ in Southeast Asia.

Sarangani’s backdoor for foreign jihadists is increasingly important for security forces to close.
According to the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), there are two Islamic State-aligned militant groups in Indonesia allegedly aiding their counterparts in Marawi.
IPAC names them as the Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD) and the little-known al-Hawariyun, whose leader, Abu Nusaibah, was arrested in November 2016 for trying to stir violence at mass street protests against Jakarta’s then-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, who was accused and convicted of insulting the Koran.

IPAC claims the two Indonesian jihadist groups sent 20 fighters to Marawi, some travelling by plane and others likely through the Celebes Sea from Kalimantan and Sulawesi, Indonesian provinces that are closest to Sarangani township and General Santos City.
“It is likely that a few have found their way to Marawi,” the 29-page report states, noting that calls for Indonesian militants to go to the Philippines became more explicit in early May, citing a Telegram Messenger intercept that reads:

“If you find it difficult to go to Sham [greater Syria] because of cost and security concerns, why not try the Philippines? Truly, our brothers in the Philippines are awaiting your arrival, why are you so slow in answering their call?”

Boats docked at a fishing village at Sarangani. Photo: Bong S. Sarmiento

In December 2015, IPAC cited that a boat hired by a JAD operative from General Santos City smuggled firearms to North Sulawesi, passing through the Celebes Sea.

The entry of Indonesian militants and successful contraband smuggling underscore how accessible Mindanao and Indonesia’s islands are, an issue both Philippine and Indonesian security agencies are now trying to address via new security measures along the decades-old migratory route.

Lieutenant General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the Philippine military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), stresses the need to strengthen border security as a proactive measure against terrorists hiding among peaceful migrants into the southern Philippines.

“We need to continuously strengthen the security of our border to prevent terrorists from using it as a mobility corridor,” Guerrero said.

Eastmincom recently renovated a border crossing station on Balut Island, the sleepy commercial center of Sarangani township, which also serves as an inter-agency observatory and monitoring station for both the Philippines and Indonesia on the Celebes Sea.
It was only in 2014 that Manila and Jakarta signed a landmark agreement that established boundaries to their overlapping maritime territories in the Celebes Sea, ending a decades-old dispute.

Both countries have since conducted annual coordinated patrols intended to strengthen security in sea lanes and enhance the inter-operability of the two countries’ maritime operations, a cooperation that has intensified in the wake of the Marawi siege.

Abu Sayyaf rebels in the interior of the southern Philippine Jolo island in a file photo. Photo: Reuters/Philippine National Red Cross via Reuters TV

The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, which the Philippine military says also has militant nationals fighting alongside the Maute Group at Marawi, also established the Trilateral Maritime Patrol at the Tarakan Naval Base in North Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The Sulu Sea, which separates the Mindanao Muslim provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi from Malaysia’s Sabah state, has been cited by the military as another possible entry point for pro-Islamic State militants from Malaysia.
The Islamic State-aligned Abu Sayyaf Group, known to finance its operations from kidnapping-for-ransom and piracy activities, has been known to prey on the Sulu Sea to abduct tourists and sailors and disrupt maritime trade.

Hadir, an Indonesian descendant who married a Filipina, says the Indonesians who have settled on the island-municipality of Sarangani are simple farmers and fishermen.

But he and other island residents recognize through a rising security presence that their hometown is now seen as a passage point for Islamic State militants from Indonesia to sneak in and out of Mindanao, and that their once sleepy town will likely never be the same.


Wanted: Tougher PH law vs terror

From Tempo (Oct 10): Wanted: Tougher PH law vs terror

Dr. Russel Salic and other suspected terrorists are exploiting the weak anti-terrorism law in the country to pursue their illegal activities, the military has said.
“The country enjoys so much democratic space that is being exploited by terror groups and also criminal groups unlike in other countries like Singapore, US, Malaysia, and Australia, they have a very strict internal security act,” said Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at the launching of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Actions in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

According to Año, this is the reason why Salic was able to freely move and operate in the country for several years before he surrendered last April.

Año said the Philippines has its own Human Security Act but it is not so strict to effectively address terror threats compared to other countries.

“We have the Human Security Act but we have been requesting to amend or add some provisions because we believe it’s not enough to address the threats against terrorism,” said Año.

Año said terrorism-related laws of other countries can hold suspicious persons even without filing charges for as long as there are indications that they are connected to terror groups.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald M. dela Rosa said they are pushing some laws to protect public safety but they face an uphill battle in their approval.

Dela Rosa said among them is the national identification system that aims to give the government easy access to data on all Filipinos and the law mandating the nationwide registration of SIM or subscriber identification module cards.

He lamented that until now, anybody could easily purchase SIM cards that can be used in bomb attacks and ransom negotiations for kidnapping victims.


18 bodies found in Marawi

From MindaNews (Oct 11): 18 bodies found in Marawi

The military said they recovered 18 decomposing bodies in Marawi City on Tuesday inside a building near the area where ISIS-inspired gunmen are fighting their last stand.

Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Ranao, said the bodies are believed to be ISIS-Maute gunmen killed in aerial bombardment and encounters with government troops in the past month.

He said soldiers spent Tuesday night placing the bodies inside body bags for turnover to PNP forensic experts who will subject them to DNA testing. “DNA tests will be performed and the bodies will be buried right away,” Brawner said.

He said burial teams will bury the bodies in Maqbara Muslim cemetery in Marawi City immediately instead of bringing them to neighboring Iligan City as done before.

Brawner said the discovery of the bodies came as troops battled the terrorists inside a five-hectare land in Marawi.

Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said the terrorists are still holding 28 hostages – 12 children and 16 women.

He said they also spotted 33 dependents of ISIS-Maute gunmen moving along with the hostages.

Philippine Air Force helicopters have been dropping leaflets in plastic bottles giving instructions to the terrorists and their families where to go if they want to surrender.


From Maute to military/police custody: hostage survivors await reunion with families

From MindaNews (Oct 10): From Maute to military/police custody: hostage survivors await reunion with families

Seventeen hostages of the Maute Group were reported rescued by the military at around 2 a.m. Wednesday, October 4, Day 135 of the Marawi Crisis. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, the 17 survivors, whose names have yet to be revealed, were still in military custody.

Asked when the survivors would be reunited with their families, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command told a press briefing on Monday that their plan is “Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (2nd from left), Western Mindanao Command chief, airs optimism on Monday (October 9, 2017) that the Marawi siege will end this month. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
He said arrangements have been made, including travel details and who will fetch or receive them. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, however, there were no indications the hostage survivors had been reunited with their families.

On Saturday, Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao told a press briefing that the families of the survivors had been informed and mobile phones were lent to them so they could talk with their loved ones.

He gave scant details about the survivors: nine males and eight females, their ages ranging from 18 to 75. He did acknowledge a reporter’s query about the five female teachers of Dansalan College as among the 17.

“We understand that the relatives of the hostages are worried about their relatives but we want to assure their family and friends na yung mga na-rescue po natin na hostages ay treated well by the troops and the police,” Brawner said, adding the hostages are still “going through a process,” including medical attention and “aside from that, we have to determine their involvement also in this crisis lalo na po yung mga lalaki (especially the men). Some of them were forced to handle weapons especially at night.”

He could not say when the survivors would be set free. “We cannot give you a specific number of days. It depends really on the situation,” he said.

During the press briefing on Monday, Brawner showed a flowchart of the “process” that survivors have to go through once they are out of the war zone: medical and physical examination to determine the person’s condition and if he or she would require further medical attention; determination of their involvement in terrorism which is to be done by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police; and if cleared by the CIDG, they are turned over to the Marawi City government and the Provincial Crisis Management Committee.

He said most of the survivors were still undergoing the CIDG stage.

Asked if there was an instance where a former hostage was not cleared by the CIDG, Galvez replied, “lahat ng hostages cleared.”

Galvez told MindaNews Tuesday night that the CIDG is “still processing” the male survivors.

23 since Sept. 16

A total of 23 hostages have been reported rescued since September 16, including Father Teresito “CHito” Soganub, the Vicar General ot the Prelature of Marawi and Catholic chaplain of the Mindanao State University, and a male teacher of Dansalan College on September 16; four hostages on September 21; and the 17 on October 4.

Fr. Chito’s family in Norala, South Cotabato found out about his escape and rescue on September 16 only through media reports. The military kept mum on September 16 but the Prelature of Marawi, citing sources from the military, issued a press statement that same day welcoming the news of Fr. Chito’s freedom. The military broke its silence only when they presented the priest briefly in a press conference afternoon on September 17.

Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub (R) with Co. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Chief of Task Force Ranao (center) and Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis and Management Council., inside the aircraft en route to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on 18 September 2017/ Photo courtesy of ZIA ALONTO ADIONG

Fr. Chito is undergoing trauma healing but remains in military custody nearly a month since he got out of the war zone .

Late evening on September 21, the wife of one of the four rescued hostages told MindaNews several persons had informed her that her husband and companions were already out of the war zone and were in the custody of the military. On September 23, she was still waiting for official confirmation from the military that, indeed, her husband was among the four.

Galvez told MindaNews in a text message on September 23 that they had spoken with the family. “They (hostage survivors) have to undergo thorough debriefing to save other 40 plus remaining hostages,”

“Kung release tayo nang release without debriefing, paano na yung iba?” (If we release and release without debriefing, what will happen to the other hostages), Galvez asked.

The husband and his three companions were released from military custody on September 25.

Samira Ali Gutoc of the Ranaw Rescue Team said survivors should be endorsed “not to the Army at first instance but to doctor, psychosocial counsellor with Meranao background for documentation.”


Asked what the protocol is in handling hostages who had escaped or had been rescued, Brawner replied: “when 17 hostages were rescued, immediately they were given medical attention, they went through a medical check up just like with Fr. Soganub and four others. Ganon po kaagad. That is the very first thing we do. Medical check up to determine if they (have) medical requirements.”

He said during the check up, one of the 17 was found to have required medical attention and was airlifted the same day to the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro but was later brought back to Marawi after treatment.

Brawner said relatives were informed “right away” that their loved ones were out of the war zone. “That same morning, the relatives of the hostages were informed. In fact they were lent celfones so that they could personally speak with their relatives,” he said.

Galvez explained they want to ensure survivors are attended to because “mas mahirap yung kanilang dinanas kaysa IDPs (their suffering is worse than the internally displaced persons)… Doble, doble depressing.” He cited the need for trauma healing and employment,

He said many are helping the soldiers and IDPs but the hostage survivors need help as ewll.

“I am appealing to generous Filipinos to help our hostages to recover and put their lives together again,” Galvez said.

“40 to 60”

Brawner said information from those who were rescued indicate the Maute Group is still holding “between 40 to 60” hostages and there are still “38 to 48” Maute Group members in the main battle area that now comprises “between five to seven hectares.”

Brawner on Monday acknowledged that the “40 to 60” estimate refers to the non-combatants, the 31 hostages and “31 to 33” Maute dependents Galvez was referring to.

Galvez said they treat the dependents of the Maute Group as non-combatants.

“They are civilians so they are not subjected to military operations,” he said, adding, “as much as possible, we want to isolate them so they will not become collateral (damage). That’s our rule of engagement.”

Galvez also noted that while the Maute leaders and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, are still in Marawi along with “six to nine” foreign terrorists, the size of the main battle area is now down to “four to five hectares” and he is confident that the fighting would be over by October 15 as targeted.

As of 7 p.m. on Sunday, 774 enemies, 47 civilians and 158 soldiers had been killed since clashes between government forces and the Maute Group started on May 23.

Two more soldiers died on Monday, bringing to 160 the total number of soldiers killed in action as of Day 140 of the Marawi Crisis.


Cops hunt killers of trader, school exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Cops hunt killers of trader, school exec

Police are hunting down gunmen who shot and killed in separate incidents Monday a businesswoman in this city and a school district supervisor in nearby Midsayap, North Cotabato.

In an interview, Sr. Supt. Rolly Octavio, Cotabato City police director, said gunmen shot dead Dr. Amalia Gutierrez, 58, of Gov. Gutierrez Avenue in Barangay Rosary Heights 9,this city.

Gutierrez was on board her Ford Everest (KEL-921) with her driver, Alexander Cuanan, 22, of Kabuntalan, Maguindanao, when the shooting took place.

Octavio said Gutierrez, separated from her husband, was a graduate of medicine, but did not take the board.

“She is not a practicing medical doctor but more of a businesswoman,” Octavio said.

The shooting occurred along the road leading to the regional center for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a busy thoroughfare during the time of the incident, according to Senior Inspector Reynaldo Delatien, police station 2 chief.

Delantien said Cuanan told investigators that he had just parked the Ford Everest when he heard gun burst at around 4:30 p.m.

Seeing Gutierrez shot, Cuanan ran for his life and hid in a nearby store.

Witnesses said Gutierrez tried to run from the vehicle but the gunman fired more shots. The killer sped off aboard a motorbike driven by a companion.

“We are looking at different angles as to the motive, our investigation is going on,” Octavio said.

Earlier on same day in Midsayap town, motorcycle riding-in-tandem gunmen also shot dead Bernard Viloan, a newly-designated school district supervisor.

Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said Viloan, supervisor of Department of Education South-West district, had just finished lunch with a school principal at an eatery at around 1:30 p.m. in Barangay Rangaban, when fired upon by the gunmen in the head and body using .45 cal. pistols.

He died on the spot while his companion was unharmed. Viloan’s predecessor as supervisor was also shot dead last year in the same village. Tuzon said they are still looking closely into Viloan’s case.


Army hits NPA for Bukidnon plantation attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Army hits NPA for Bukidnon plantation attack

The military has lambasted the New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday for attacking a pineapple plantation in Bukidnon, even as it accused the Maoist guerrillas of violating an international human rights agreement.

Some 30 armed men suspected to be members of the NPA razed to the ground the compound of Davao Agricultural Ventures Corp. (Davco) in Barangay Merangeran in Quezon town on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 8), reports reaching the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) said.

Davco is engaged in the production and export of fresh pineapples. The insurgents also burned the vehicles parked inside the Davco compound and took away the company’s firearms.

Torched were a boom spray tractor, a boom harvester, two nurse trucks and a generator set.

In a statement admitting the raid, the NPA said its South Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command carried out the burning of the properties.

Ka Malem Mabini, of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Region, said their fighters confiscated at least 15 high-powered firearms from the company’s security personnel.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4ID spokesperson, said the rebels violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), one of the four substantive agenda that was formulated following the peace talks between the government and the Communist rebels in the past years.

“The incident is another violation of CARHRIHL when the NPA deliberately and dastardly attacked civilians and their properties. This is their (NPA) way of compelling companies and other small business entities to give in to their extortion demands,” Martinez said.

He said the attack's immediate impact would be loss of jobs for the locals.

He said the military is supporting the police pursue the perpetrators.

Col. Eric Vinoya, commanding officer of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said “it is very unfortunate that despite being a signatory to the CARHRIHL, the NPA, with the guidance of their leaders, still continue to attack innocent civilians.”

“We strongly condemn the NPA’s act of banditry and their insincerity by attacking, yet again, a civilian facility and murdering a public official that poses an even bigger threat to the civilian populace and to the economic situation of Bukidnon,” Vinoya said, referring to the gunning down of Romeo Bantilan Jr., village councilor of Barangay White Kulaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, last Oct. 8.

Bantilan was allegedly killed by a member of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 53 only known as “Aman.”

He added: “Those attacks only fuel our utmost desire to protect our people from these thugs. And in so doing, we need the full cooperation of the public in ensuring that these NPA atrocities will be pre-empted.”


3 soldiers hurt in BIFF ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): 3 soldiers hurt in BIFF ambush

Police and military authorities here have launched a manhunt operation against suspected ISIS-inspired armed men who ambushed and injured three soldiers in Barangay Nabalawag on Sunday night, police said Tuesday.

Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said joint police and military forces are now tracking the suspects believed to be members of a faction of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operating in Maguindanao.

“We are currently working with the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion and that the attackers could still be in the outskirt villages of Midsayap,” Tuzon said.

Government troops who sustained minor injuries in the ambush incident were Army Corporal Ameridon Dimasangca, and Privates 1st Class Ronel Mahilom and Buenaventura Raygon, all of the Army’s 34th IB.

The soldiers are now confined at Camp Siongco military hospital inside the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) headquarters.

Tuzon said the victims were on board a red Mitsubishi Adventure vehicle when the attackers opened fire at past 10 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Nabalawag.

The Army's 6ID commander, Major Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, said Tuesday that the three soldiers were out on a special mission when gunmen with assault rifles shot at their vehicle.

Tuzon said the gunmen could be members of the outlawed BIFF – ISIS faction who are also into illegal drugs trade; or cohorts of drug peddlers arrested by joint police and 34th IB troops in Midsayap the past several months.

Barangay Nabalawag is situated near the borders of Midsayap, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao where the BIFF armed men are active.


President Duterte tours HMAS Adelaide, renews full support to allies

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): President Duterte tours HMAS Adelaide, renews full support to allies

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, October 10, visited the largest ship of the Royal Australian Navy and reiterated full support to the Philippines’ allies.

The President was given a tour of the landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Adelaide anchored at the Port of Manila as part of the regional deployment by the Australian Defence Force to strengthen ties within the region.

In his remarks, President Duterte welcomed the officials and crew of the navy ship that is in its maiden deployment to Southeast Asia.

“I’d like to welcome you officially to the Philippines. And we’re happy that you found time to visit us,” he said.

The President discussed the ongoing tension in the Korean Peninsula.

“It’s good to raise our awareness actually now. And it would be also to our advantage if you just go around showing solidarity with the rest of the world. Not only because we face so many challenges and threats, but the small guy there in North Korea is playing with dangerous weapons,” he said.

President Duterte expressed hopes that the situation would not deteriorate into something violent that may destroy Southeast Asia.

“So I hope that in the coming days, we should stay together, especially the alliance between us, Philippines, America, and even China," he said.

“It’s just a neighbor of China. And any distraction using nuclear bombs, nuclear arms, would destroy Southeast Asia immediately. And the Philippines is no exception,” he added.

The President then reiterated his support to Australia and to the Philippines’ allies.

“And that is why we reiterate our full support with our Australian friends, Americans, and even Chinese, Malaysian, all, to show to this one guy that he has to stop threatening the world. Because he runs the risk of being destroyed first,” he said.

Duterte told the crew of HMAS Adelaide that the Philippines is also suffering from a severe case of terrorism, citing the country’s battle against the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.

“We’re coping up. We hope that it would be finished in about one week. We have suffered casualties, the biggest so far in present years. And I am sad that terrorism has arrived in my land,” he said.

“We are not against the Moro or the Muslim people. I myself have a little of --- because of my grandmother, who was a Maranao Muslim. I don’t have anything against them, but it’s the terrorism that’s being imported,” he explained.

HMAS Adelaide, weighing 27,800 tonnes and 230 meters in length, is designed to provide medical and humanitarian assistance during regional emergencies with its 40-bed hospital that is complete with two operating theatres.

The ship’s 200-meter flight deck can carry up to 12 helicopters. It can accommodate more than 100 vehicles, 2,100 tonnes of cargo and can transport 1,000 military personnel and equipment for a rapid disaster response deployment.

The navy ship will also dock in Subic to continue the crew’s engagement with their Filipino counterparts.

More than 100 Philippine Armed Forces personnel, including the elite Philippine Marines, will participate in a sea-ride on Adelaide’s landing craft for a hands-on experience of the Australian Defence Force’s humanitarian and disaster relief capability.

The Australian Embassy noted Australia and the Philippines’ long-standing Defence Cooperation Program, which includes counter-terrorism, maritime security, and capability development assistance to the Armed Force of the Philippines. (PND)


Top aide of Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist killed in Marawi — AFP

From MindaNews (Oct 10): Top aide of Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist killed in Marawi — AFP

The military on Monday said its troops have killed the top lieutenant of Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist who was fighting alongside the ISIS-inspired militants in this city.

Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39, also a Malaysian, was killed along with 15 others in the battle to retake Bato Ali Mosque last month.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (2nd from left), Western Mindanao Command chief, airs optimism on Monday (October 9, 2017) that the Marawi siege will end this month. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

“We can confirm he was killed along with the others in the fighting around the mosque,” Galvez said.

He did not present solid proof of Raimee’s death but said the Malaysian government confirmed it in an exchange of intelligence information.

He said Malaysian intelligence agencies knew of Raimee’s death when it was announced in various chat rooms in the social media.

He said statements from the 17 hostages who escaped from their Maute captors last week corroborated this information.

Raimee was the most trusted lieutenant of Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist Dr. Mahmud Ahmad who along with another Malaysian reportedly went to Basilan and Sulu in 2014 to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Ahmad played a key role in planning the attack of Marawi City based on a video footage showing him and other militant leaders being briefed by Abdullah Maute, one of the leaders of the Maute group.

Galvez said they don’t know the whereabouts of Ahmad but they are certain that there are still six foreign terrorists fighting in Marawi.

“We believed there are still six foreign fighters down from 19,” he said.

Galvez added they have checked on reports that 15 Indonesian terrorists have flown in through Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental to join the fighting.

He said that with the help of the Indonesian consulate in Davao City, they have tracked down all the Indonesians and found they were legitimate visitors who joined an international conference for Muslim preachers in Marawi.


PRO 2 slams NPA atrocities in Cagayan Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9): PRO 2 slams NPA atrocities in Cagayan Valley

The head of the regional police office here condemned the series of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Henry Abraham Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the municipalities of Buguey and Sta. Teresita in Cagayan province over the weekend.

Chief Superintendent Robert Quenery said the violent activities of the rebels hinder development in the region.

“We denounce these atrocities perpetrated by the NPA for hampering development and growth in the region. The threats and intimidation of the NPA to our barangay (village) officials who are performing peacekeeping operations had adverse effect to the development of the community,” Quenery said.

He said at around 5:20 a.m. on October 7, a group of 50 suspected NPAs wearing Army uniform called the presence of the village officials of Barangay Villa Cielo, Buguey, Cagayan. After gathering the barangay officials, the rebels introduced themselves as members of the NPA.

At around 6:40 a.m. of the same day, around 50 alleged communist rebels, armed with high-powered firearms, burned and destroyed one dump truck and one backhoe owned by Danilo Tamayo Jr. of the DATAJ Aquafarm, Inc. and a backhoe owned by architect Rodolfo Tibuc Jr. at Sitio Karayatan, Barangay Dungeg in Sta Teresita.

Initial investigation showed the group arrived at the kiosk barracks of the security guards and took the caliber .45 firearm of one of the guards and instructed them to leave the area.

Pursuit operations are ongoing to apprehend the suspected rebels.