PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered security forces to decimate “the forces of evil” in Mindanao, including the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, amid reports that a Singaporean has taken the lead in efforts to spread the influence of the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS) in Mindanao and Southeast Asia.
“There will be no letup, whether they are foreign terrorists or not,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said, referring to the new phase in Duterte’s war on terrorism.
The renewed push against terrorists comes amid reports that 13 foreigners, including Syrians, Indonesians, and Malaysians, are in various parts of Mindanao training local militants in bomb making and urban terrorism techniques.
At the airport before flying to Cambodia and Singapore, Duterte said a Singaporean has taken over efforts to build up the ISIS presence in Sulu and in Southeast Asia.
“In Sulu now, there is a group… led by a Singaporean,” Duterte said.
“Countering terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization will be the key areas of discussion as well as the war on illegal drugs,” Duterte said of his upcoming meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Duterte had earlier warned that the international terrorist organization ISIS has made inroads in the country, connecting with the local Maute group.
The Abu Sayyaf is also seeking recognition from ISIS, which is seeking to build a wilayat or province in Southeast Asia, as it comes under heavy attack in the Middle East.
At least 14 battalions have already been deployed in known terrorist havens in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, as parts of efforts to neutralize them.
The Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion clashed with 150 fully armed Abu Sayyaf fighters led by Radullan Sahiron in Sitio Dyundangan, Buhanginan village in Patikul, Sulu, killing 10 bandits while suffering four casualties on Saturday.
The Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, lost 63 fighters when government forces attacked Butig town in Lanao del Sur last week.
Esperon said anti-terrorism efforts have been ongoing, but the massive campaign launched recently aims to finish the terrorists off.
Security was raised in Singapore last August amid reports that terrorists wre targeting one of Asia’s top financial centers.
Lee had called for increased vigilance amid the looming specter of terrorism “which can tear our society apart.”
Sources told the Manila Standard that when the Philippines assumes the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year, Manila will propose two documents to the 10-nation bloc, incuding a “Manila Declaration to Combat the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism.”
Police on Tuesday said all four arrested suspects in the failed US Embassy bomb attack are ISIS supporters.
“All four suspects are members of the Sarangani-based Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines (AKP) which had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” said Manila Police District (MPD) director Senior Supt. Joel Coronel.
Citing a report submitted by Manila Police District (MPD) director Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on Monday identified the fourth suspect arrested as Elmer Romero, 36, alias Jamal, who admitted to being a conspirator in the bomb plot.
Coronel said intelligence units from the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP) helped with Romero’s capture and debunked reports that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation took part in the operation.
With Romero’s arrest, Coronel said they are hunting down two more possible suspects, one of whom he said has already left Metro Manila.
Sarangani officials, meanwhile, have raised an additional bounty of P1 million for the arrest of the eader of a local armed group that had pledged support to ISIS.
Kiamba, Sarangani Mayor Raul Martinez said Tuesday the reward money is aimed at enhancing the manhunt operations against Mohamad Jaafar Maguid alias Tokboy, founder of the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines group.
The group, which is operating in parts of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces, has been blamed for a number of terrorist attacks in the area over the last few years.
Authorities tagged Maguid’s group as behind the planting of an improvised bomb late Saturday night at a Christmas display in front of the Kiamba municipal hall.
“We’ve had enough of him already. I hope that the reward money will expedite his arrest,” the mayor told reporters.
Martinez said he personally raised the P1 million bounty through donors in Kiamba and the neighboring municipalities of Maasim and Matium.
He said it will be given to anyone who would be able to provide information that will lead to Maguid’s arrest.
The reward money is on top of the standing P200,000 bounty for Maguid that was earlier set by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that nearly 7,000 people have been displaced for more than a month following armed clashes between government security forces and armed groups in Basilan province.
“These families left their homes and sources of livelihood after the hostilities started in November. The residents of six villages in the conflict-affected municipalities of Al-Barka and Tuburan chose to stay with relatives or in evacuation centers for fear of being caught in the crossfire. The ICRC’s distribution is in response to their basic needs for food,” said Nezar Tamine, deputy head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao.
To support their needs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided food rations and hygiene items for the affected families in Al-Barka and Tuburan, with the support of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Basilan chapter.
Also recently, the ICRC arranged for 12 emergency health kits to be delivered to hospitals and rural health units in Sulu and Basilan provinces to support the medical needs of the affected civilians. These kits also contain dressing materials to treat the weapon-wounded. With Sandy Araneta, PNA
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