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‘Jihadists invade Mindanao’

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday confirmed the presence of Islamic State jihadists trying to spread extremism in war-torn Mindanao.

In a speech before newly promoted officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Duterte expressed alarm over verified reports not only from the military but local officials claiming that Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists, along with their Middle East counterparts, have already entered Mindanao through the country’s southern backdoor.

“Now I’ve heard, not only from your report, but from the politicians who are there that there are about four to six Arabs… lecturing. They’re the most dangerous. Political officers are dangerous for us,” the President said. “We cannot just afford to allow them to spread [extremism].”

In the same speech, Duterte revealed that an Indonesian emissary had been sent to Manila to press him for action on the continued spate of kidnappings on the high seas by Islamic militants operating in the Philippines.

“There was a new report that an Indonesian was kidnapped, so a special emissary was sent by the [Indonesian] central government. And [the message was] urgent: What are we doing?” Duterte said after a late Monday night meeting with the visiting official.

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PHOTO OP. President Rodrigo Duterte, commander in chief of the Armed Forces, poses Tuesday with newly appointed military officers after their oathtaking ceremony at Rizal Hall of Malacañang.

In November, the Philippines agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to conduct hot pursuit of pirates in the country’s territorial waters as part of joint efforts to stop piracy and kidnapping.

“So I reminded him that we have this agreement. We have this understanding. Put it into practice and allow more ships,” Duterte said.

Over the weekend, the President admitted he could not control the ISIS problem and threatened to call off the ongoing peace talks with Moro rebel groups should they provide refuge to the Abu No. 2 leader, Isnilon Hapilon, who has been the rising figurehead of a handful of ISIS followers based in Basilan, Sulu and Central Mindanao. 

The military has reported the death of several foreign jihadists in recent operations.

Hapilon recently left his lair in Basilan and moved to Central Mindanao to find out if the area is conducive to the establishment of a provincial caliphate for the ISIS.

Security officials said the homegrown terrorist groups had been uniting and evolving into just one group called Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik or DIWM, and had chosen Hapilon as their sole leader in their aggressive efforts to be recognized by the ISIS.

Duterte called on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to contain the fighting inside Marawi City and Lanao del Sur. 

“I told Delfin Lorenzana, we have to contain the fighting. We cannot afford to allow it to spread, there are many who will die,” he said. “I said limit the fighting inside Marawi.”

On Wednesday, the Western Mindanao Command said at least five Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in fighting in Barangay Pugad Manual, Panamao, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Franco Alano, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the soldiers encountered the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya at 8 a.m.

Nine other bandits were wounded, as were to soldiers on the government side.

“Government troops are now in pursuit of the said terrorist group while other military units cordoned the area to restrict the movement of the fleeing terrorists,” Alano said.

The military has been carrying out an all-out offensive against the terror group in Sulu and Basilan upon orders of President Duterte.

Some of the terrorists led by Hapilon had reportedly been scouting for base in Central Mindanao particularly in Butig, Lanao del Sir.

The military has also been conducting all-out offensive in Butig against Hapilon and his supporters, the Maute Group led by brothers Omar and Muhammad.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano said Haiplon was badly wounded and was on the run as the military keeps up the attack with close air and artillery support.

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