Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte said there was “no failure of intelligence” in the Marawi City crisis. He said security forces knew that the Maute is building up strength but withheld going after them right away.
“It was not a failure of intelligence. Our forces’ standing orders, when they get information that arms are being stockpiled, is to verify who are building up these weaponsm, whether they are Moro National Liberation Front of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They [Philippine security forces] have standing orders to first avoid confrontation as much as possible and persuade these people that it is wiser for them not to fight,” Duterte said late Saturday during a visit at an army camp in Butuan City.
The group that is stockpiling weapons turned out to be the Maute, a Lanao-based extremist organisation that got its name from its two ranking leaders, Abdullah and Omar Maute, who had been exposed to radical Islam as students in the Middle East.
In the attacks they carried out in recent weeks, they were supported by like-minded young Muslim radicals including those from other parts of Southeast Asia, Middle East and Central Asia.
They banded together under the black banner of Daesh and swore to establish a radical “caliphate” in Southeast Asia.
Duterte said that the Maute, and certain local politicians and warlords, had been stockpiling weapons.
The President also called on the military to resume the use of air assets, saying foreign terrorists are fighting alongside the Maute Group.
“We are up against fighters. A lot of them had experience in the Middle East and they have learned the art of brutal killing,” Duterte warned.
While the government has the upper hand in the fighting that started on May 23 in Marawi City, the conflict has cost the lives of 59 security forces and 26 civilians.
Authorities are still trying to ascertain the actual number of people held hostage by the Maute.
The military said 225 terrorist have been killed in the course of several weeks fighting a total 1,629 civilians trapped have been rescued and escorted to safety.
Some 200,000 residents fled Marawi City in Central Mindanao since the start of the fighting.
Meanwhile, authorities in Quezon City are trying to verify information that some of the Maute members who had escaped from Marawi City are in the city.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista has given orders to Quezon City Police Director Senior Supt. Guillermo Eleazar to ensure that Muslim communities of Novaliches and Culiat are not infiltrated by extremist elements.