PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte refused to order the military to stop its operations against the Maute group and dared the local jihadist group to push through with its plan to attack Marawi City in Lanao City and raze it to the ground.
“I am the government. Do not impose conditions on me. I’m the one who’ll make orders,” Duterte said during the awarding of the Ten Outstanding Filipinos in Malacañang, only hours before he presided over a meeting of the National Security Council.
“Do not make demands. These Maute must stop and withdraw from Marawi which they threatened to raze to the ground,” Duterte said.
“Come on down and raze it. Let’s see. I’ll go there myself just to see how you will proceed with your plans,” he taunted the Maute group which has lost dozens of men in ongoing military operations.
Duterte also revealed that the Maute group was using a former Moro ambassador to lawyer for them with the offer that “they will stop terrorist operations if the military stops operations.”
“I said, ‘No. You do not make any condition.’ I am the government. Why should I stop?”
An NSC member confirmed Duterte’s claim that the Maute group was planning to attack Marawi City and said it was one of the key issues discussed during the NSC meeting.
“The report on the Maute group is that they are demanding a stop of operations against them or they will burn Marawi,” the Cabinet official said.
But the official said the President ordered continued operations against the Maute group, which has sworn allegiance to the terrorist group Daesh and the local Abu Sayyaf group which is also being pursued by the military in Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf were forced to release two Indonesian hostages as government forces continued to press on their positions in Sulu, Major Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said.
Tan identified the Indons as Mohammad Nazer and Robin Peter, the last two remaining from the original seven crew men of T/B Charles 00 taken on June 22, 2016 in the waters of Simisa, Sulu.
“They were released by the ASG captors to Moro National Liberation Front commander Tahir Sali in Indanan town after being pressured by non-stop military operations and pressure by the MNLF,” Tan said.
The Indons were turned over before lunch by the MNLF to Sulu vice governor and acting Governor Nurunnisa Tan.
After that they were brought to Camp Bautista in Barangay Bus-Bus in Jolo town. “Their turnover to Indonesian authorities is now being arranged,” Tan said.
Meanwhile, the military said at least 10 terrorists were killed and six wounded when elements of the 35th Infantry Battalion encountered Sunday some 150 terrorists led by Radullan Sahiron, Yasser Igasan, Hatib Hajan, and Mujer Yadah in Bud Taming, Barangay Kabbontakkas in Patikul.
Earlier, the military reported three killed soldiers and 21 wounded.
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