9 people linked to jihadists detained in Marawi City
LANAO DEL SUR – Security forces detained Monday at least 9 people suspected of having link s with local jihadists during a raid at a school compound in Marawi City in southern Philippines, reports said.
It policemen, backed by soldiers, also seized two improvised explosives at an apartment unit inside the Mindanao State University. It was unknown whether the men are members of the jihadist group led by the Maute brothers, or supporters.
Police were investigating all the suspects while military operations continue against the jihadists in Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
Latest military propaganda said at least 15 jihadists had been killed over the weekend and that a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, being coddled by the Maute group was also wounded in the government assault in Butig town.
But the military claim cannot be independently confirmed, although security officials insisted the reports came from intelligence sources and civilians themselves. Just recently, the military claimed that a Malaysian and an Indonesian jihadist were also slain in the operations, but troops failed to retrieve the bodies of the fighters.
Hapilon’s group and other local jihadists have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the mineral-rich, but restive region of Mindanao, which was once under the rule of sultanates.
Troops were sent to the province to hunt down Hapilon, who managed to escape a massive military operation in Basilan only to link up with the Maute group whose leaders are brothers Otto, Abdullah and Omar Maute.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Hapilon, who is also the local chieftain of the Islamic State in the Philippines, was believed to have arrived in Lanao del Sur in December last year in an effort to further strengthen the unity of various jihadist groups fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state.
The rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is currently negotiating peace with Manila also ordered its forces to help Philippine authorities hunt down Hapilon and the Maute brothers.
The MILF, which signed an interim peace deal with the government in 2014, had been previously accused by the military of providing sanctuary to Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists, especially members of the Jemaah Islamiya.
President Duterte has appealed to the MILF and its rival group Moro National Liberation Front not to provide shelter to the jihadists and warned their leaders that he would order the police and military to pursue the fighters inside their territories in Mindanao.
Security forces are also fighting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ansarul Khilafah, Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, Al-Khobar Group, including so-called rogue MILF rebels, among other smaller groups sympathizing with Islamic State. (Mindanao Examiner)