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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Civilian casualties mounting in Philippine city as ISIS fighting rages on

MARAWI CITY – The number of civilian casualties killed in fierce fighting between security forces and ISIS fighters continue to climb up as more bodies were found Sunday on a village in Marawi City in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur. 
At least corpses had been discovered under a bridge in Matampay village. They were believed executed by jihadists after soldiers found a cardboard with the word “munafiq” among the pile of dead bodies.
In Islam, munafiq means “hypocrite,” described in the Quran as outward Muslims who were secretly unsympathetic to the cause of Muslims and actively sought to undermine the Muslim community. The hypocrisy itself is called nifaq. 
More than two dozen decomposing bodies of civilians had been found elsewhere in Marawi after ISIS fighters killed them since the start of the siege of May 23. Photos posted on Facebook also showed a child alongside a man and a woman as among the dead. 
Sporadic clashes continued in the Islamic City, now a virtual ghost town, after tens of thousands of people fled their homes and sought safe refuge in nearby cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro where Christian residents offered free foods and bottled water along the roads to terrified refugees. 
Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, has already mobilized huge groups of social workers to feed and assist those who fled Marawi. The Department of Social Welfare and Development also sent 10,000 food packs for refugees in Iligan City. 
The military now said over 50 militants, including foreign fighters, had been killed since the start of the violence, but at least 13 soldiers and two policemen also perished in street battles with more than four dozens injured. It was unclear how the military counted the ISIS casualties with troops failing to recover bodies of slain militants. 
There were also reports that many of the jihadists managed to escape from the military assault, although some of the hardened fighters and snipers were left behind to hold back advancing army soldiers. A military tank was also destroyed in the battle and ISIS militants in black robes even posed on top of the armored vehicle. 
Many houses were also destroyed by aerial bombings carried out by military planes on suspected hiding places of ISIS fighters. But it was not immediately known whether the air strikes had killed or injured civilians, although security officials said most of the assaults was so-called “surgical” to minimize “collateral damage” or civilian casualties. 
While the military is battling the militants, ISIS propaganda also continue in social media with supporters and agitators using false identities urging Muslims to join in the fight and defend Marawi from the “infidels,” but there were also anger among those affected by clashes and blamed the Maute group for their situation now. However, little can be heard from imam or preachers, although many ulama or scholars condemned the attack. 
ISIS has already threatened ulama and their families for condemning the militants and for participating in a recent anti-terrorism summit organized by Hataman in Cotabato City. Prompted by the threats, Hataman said they would hold more such forums in the region to combat violence and extremism. 
“To those who have Ulama relatives, warn your parents, brothers, and children not to attend the said summit because if something happens to them along the way or in the end, don’t tell us you were not warned,” a statement released by the Dawlah Islamiya or Islamic State said. 
Hataman has said Islamic scholars can “contribute largely to the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam, most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace, and harmony.” (Moh Saaduddin and Rhoderick Beñez)
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4 Sayyaf militants yield in Basilan province

BASILAN CITY – Four alleged Abu Sayyaf militants surrendered to the military in Basilan, one of 5 provinces in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials announced on Sunday.
Officials said the four - Usman Mussa, Balie Kasaran, Sadar Kasaran and Sarwin Kasaran - also yielded two M16 automatic rifles and an M1 rifle when they surrendered over the weekend to the 18th Infantry Battalion in Al-Barka town.
They were reportedly followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri, according to Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a military spokeswoman. She said just recently, three militants also surrendered to a military task force in Tawi-Tawi, also in the autonomous region. And handed over two automatic rifles to Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi.
The trio - Angki Haradja, Nickson Jalil, and Asil Sainuddin - were followers of slain Abu Sayyaf leader Aljine Mundok, alias Ninok Sappari. The militants were involved in the 2015 killing of Nixon Tarsum, brother of Vice Mayor Adjuwanda Tarsum, of Patikul town in Sulu province.
Petinglay said a total of 64 militants had surrendered to the military in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi since January this year, but most of them were also released by the Western Mindanao Command because no warrants had been released by the courts against them despite their involvement in heinous crimes. (Mindanao Examiner)
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper May 29 - June 4, 2017

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Military planes bomb ISIS targets in Marawi City



ILIGAN CITY – Military aircrafts continue to bomb enemy targets in Marawi City where jihadists were holed out as security forces battled ISIS-affiliate Maute group and their armed supporters fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the restive Muslim region of Mindanao.

Several houses, including one owned by a lawmaker, were blasted on Saturday as television crew members dangerously sneaked in Bangon, one of villages bombed by the air force. One villager, guiding journalists, said the bomb destroyed the house of a lawmaker. A video of the aftermath of the air strike was also uploaded on social media and it showed the house hit by the bomb still burning. “The village is empty. Everybody has evacuated. That house is also empty, but they still bombed it,” the guide said.

The Western Mindanao Command confirmed the air strikes and said it targeted Maute fighters hiding out in different houses and buildings there. “As fighting continues in Marawi, our units are constrained to launch airstrikes to identified specific targets occupied by the Maute/ISIS terrorist group. These terrorist atrocities continue sow terror and confusion even to non-combatant Muslims and Christians.” Said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

He also sought the help of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and apologized to tens of thousands of people affected and displaced by the war. “Nais naming humingi ng paumanhin sa lahat ng mamamayang apektado, sa mga kapatid naming Muslim lalong lalo na sa mga miyembro ng MILF at MNLF, humihingi kami ng pang unawa sa pangyayari ngayon. Nawa’y magtulungan tayo sa mga panahong ito, at ating paigtingin ang samahang nabuo sa mga nakaraang mga pagsubok na ating nalampasan,” Galvez said.

He said troops will also be deployed in different mosques to protect Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. 

Since the start of the violence, it was only on Saturday that authorities shut down cell sites in Marawi City and effectively cutting off mobile phones communications among ISIS fighters and their allies.

The military on Friday said security forces had killed nearly three dozen militants, including foreign fighters, in continuing offensives against the Maute group. But 6 soldiers were also slain and 7 more wounded on Friday in street battles in Marawi.

“As of this report, 31 terrorist were already neutralized and 6 high-powered firearms were recovered by the troops. Our troops are doing deliberate operations in areas we believe are still occupied or infested with the terrorist’s presence. I specifically ordered our soldiers to locate and destroy these terrorists as soon as possible,” said Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of military forces fighting the Maute group. 

But it was unclear whether the casualties were based on intelligence reports since not a single body of militants had been recovered by troops, except for one fighter who died while being operated at a hospital early on the siege. 

However, Malaysian media – quoting unnamed intelligence sources – reported that two Malaysians, Abdulrahman Asmawi from Kelantan and Kamsa Yahya from Kedah; and an Indonesian militant, Shei Ayman Marjuki, and an Arab sheik, Ahmad Balkafi, – were among those killed in Marawi.  

Malaysian newspaper The Star also reported that former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad, also known as Abu Handzalah, is also in Marawi and helping Abu Sayyaf chieftain and local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon in putting up a caliphate in the southern region. 

Troops were trying desperately to drive the militants out in the open as security forces cordoned off Marawi to prevent the jihadists from escaping. But there were no signs the militants were backing down, although they earlier threatened to execute over a dozen civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest, should security forces continue with its assaults. 

The fighting began on May 23 when militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. Photos of militants also surfaced in social media with one picture showing 3 heavily-armed jihadists posing on top of a destroyed army tank in Marawi. Other photos showed the militants manning roadblocks in the city. 

The militants, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, forged an alliance with various jihadist groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the notorious Abu Sayyaf group. 

Galvez again appealed to citizens to help them fight terrorism by providing intelligence on the militants. Galvez earlier vowed to crush the Maute group in two days. “We once more call on the people in the community to join us fight terrorism. Provide your security forces with information that will contribute to the neutralization of these agents of deaths and destruction. We will exhaust all efforts to crush the remaining Maute members so that the people of Marawi City can go back to their homes the soonest,” he said. 

The siege of Marawi by ISIS fighters has forced President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short his four-day visit to Russia and rushed back home to personally address the critical situation. Before heading back to the Philippines, Duterte declared a 60-day martial law in the whole of Southern Philippines in an effort to destroy the Maute group and end the violence in Marawi. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Friday, May 26, 2017

6 cops wounded in Kidapawan City bombings



Six policemen were injured in twin bombings believed carried out by communist rebels on Friday, May 26, 2017 in Kidapawan City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo -  Rhoderick Beñez)

KIDAPAWAN CITY – At least 6 policemen were injured in separate roadside bombings on Friday believed carried out by communist rebels in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the first attack occurred in the morning along the highway in Kidapawan City that wounded 2 policemen. And six hours later, another bomb was detonated in not far away from the highway.
The twin attacks came just a day after the New People’s Army ordered an all-out offensives against the government – despite ongoing peace talks - after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the whole of Southern Philippines to address the breakout of violence in Marawi City in nearby Lanao del Sur province following a deadly raid by the jihadist Maute group.
The military did not issue any statement on the latest communist attacks which broke out a day after government forces killed 2 Abu Sayyaf militants in a firefight in Basilan province that also left 3 pro-government militias injured.
The clash erupted in the village of Guinante in Al-Barka town, according to security officials, who identified the slain militants as Nasirin Awwalin and Hasmin Lajid – who were followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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Philippine military claims killing 31 Islamic State fighters in Marawi City

COTABATO CITY – The Philippine military claimed Friday to have nearly three dozen militants, including foreign fighters, in continuing offensives against the jihadist Maute group affiliated with the Islamic State. But 6 army soldiers were also killed with 7 more wounded in fierce clashes. 
“As of this report, 31 terrorist were already neutralized and 6 high-powered firearms were recovered by the troops. Our troops are doing deliberate operations in areas we believe are still occupied or infested with the terrorist's presence. I specifically ordered our soldiers to locate and destroy these terrorists as soon as possible,” said Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of military forces fighting the Maute group. 
But it was unclear whether the casualties were based on intelligence reports since not a single body of militants had been recovered by troops, except for one fighter who died while being operated at a hospital early on the siege. 
However, Malaysian media - quoting unnamed intelligence sources - reported that two Malaysians, Abdulrahman Asmawi from Kelantan and Kamsa Yahya from Kedah; and an Indonesian militant, Shei Ayman Marjuki, and an Arab sheik, Ahmad Balkafi, - were among those killed in Marawi.  Malaysian newspaper The Star also reported that former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad, also known as Abu Handzalah, is also in Marawi and helping Abu Sayyaf chieftain and local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon in putting up a caliphate in the southern region. 
The military’s Western Mindanao Command said the fighting entered its 4th day and troops were trying desperately to drive out the militants out in the open as security forces cordoned off Marawi to prevent the jihadists from escaping. There were no signs the militants were backing down, although they earlier threatened to execute over a dozen civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest, should security forces continue with its assaults. 
Six army soldiers were confirmed killed with 7 more wounded in the fighting and bring the total number of casualties to over three dozen since the violence began on May 23 when militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. Photos of militants also surfaced in social media with one picture showing 3 heavily-armed jihadists posing on top of a destroyed army tank in Marawi. Other photos showed the militants manning roadblocks in the city. 
The militants, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, vowed to put up a caliphate in the restive region and forged an alliance with various jihadist groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the notorious Abu Sayyaf group. 
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, appealed to citizens to help them fight terrorism by providing intelligence on the militants. Galvez earlier vowed to crush the Maute group in two days.
 “We once more call on the people in the community to join us fight terrorism. Provide your security forces with information that will contribute to the neutralization of these agents of deaths and destruction. We will exhaust all efforts to crush the remaining Maute members so that the people of Marawi City can go back to their homes the soonest,” he said. 
The siege of Marawi by ISIS fighters has forced President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short his four-day visit to Russia and rushed back home to personally address the critical situation. Before heading back to the Philippines, Duterte declared a 60-day martial law in the whole of Southern Philippines in an effort to destroy the Maute group and end the violence in Marawi. (Mindanao Examiner)
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