THE Maute group had tried to recruit Maranao youth from as far as Manila to join the siege of Marawi City which began on May 23, according to its Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra in an interview on News To Go on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, I found out that during the siege, there were many youth, even young professionals who were enticed to participate, in this militant group and in fact they were invited, in some colleges and universities in Manila,” Gandamra said.
Gandamra said the actions of the extremist group created a rift and sowed distrust among those affected by the battle, making the youth a vulnerable target for their propaganda even when they were far away from the battle.
The local government enlisted leaders to provide religious counseling to youth and other evacuees well before the liberation
of Marawi this month to address the trust issues generated by the terrorist attacks.
Debriefings, psychosocial, cultural, and religious programs in evacuation centers were instrumental in building trust between the youth, the Maranao, and the government again, Gandamra said.
In a related development:
• The Islamic State group sent at least $1.5 million to finance the recently ended siege of Marawi, with the assault leaders using the 2014 IS seizure of the Iraqi city of Mosul as a blueprint, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said.
But the battle defeats of the group in Syria and Iraq, and now the IS-aligned gunmen in Marawi showed a major vulnerability of the extremists: Their audacious territorial occupations tend to crumble over time as they’re cornered in urban settings by the relentless firepower of US-backed offensives.
The counterterrorism victories have given governments confidence that IS—which shocked the world with its rise a few years ago—could be stopped and defeated, said Año, who oversaw the military campaign that ended the five-month siege in Marawi this week.
“They underestimated the reaction of the different countries in the world, the alliances,” he said.
The siege, launched on May 23, left more than 1,100 combatants and civilians dead, including more than 900 militants, and displaced some 400,000 residents, including the entire population of Marawi, a bastion of the Islamic faith in this predominantly Christian country of 106 million.
Gain control of Marawi City, after nearly five months of battle, saying that this is giving the government the “necessary leeway and maneuver room” to deal with jihadists, whose not yet entirely eradicated.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the emergency clamped down in Mindanao following the Marawi siege should remain until the end of the year to allow the military to address potential terrorist threasts.
Elements like the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other radicalized groups in Mindanao are yet to be completely quelled, despite government troops scoring a victory with the Marawi siege completely over, Duterte’s top security adviser said.
“Plus reconstruction and rehab will somehow benefit from martial law,” he added.
Esperon however admits it will be “quite a dream” that all problems are resolved in Mindanao before the Dec. 31 extension granted by Congress.
“You might as well put more singing bands and singing groups, magcelebrate na tayo kung walang problema,” he said.