Duterte resurfaces after rest, says Islamist insurgency has deep roots

People watch as smoke billows from houses after aerial bombings by Philippine Airforce planes on Islamist militant positions in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on June 17, 2017.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said the Marawi Crisis was not a case of failure of intelligence but a case of connivance of politicians and warlords who allowed the Maute Group to stockpile firearms and ammunition in Marawi City that "could match even the firepower of the Armed Forces (of the Philippines)".

"We have a conglomeration of ISIS (IS) fighters there (in Marawi City)", Duterte said, justifying the need to use fighter jets and other air assets to defeat the remaining militants holed up in parts of the city.

Maute was an Arabic teacher in Marawi City.

Television footage showed the soldiers bidding goodbye to their families before being flown to the conflict zone.

A mass evacuation from Marawi city took place after Philippine military launched an operation against Daesh-linked Maute group in May.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, on May 23 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.

Of this number, 310 people - or 225 terrorists, 59 soldiers, and 26 civilians - were killed in the conflict.

"Safe to say, I can tell you, they don't have the capacity to do what they did in Marawi anymore. This is where the location of their command and control, the leadership of the enemy". Gen. Restituto Padilla, said in a press briefing.

Padilla said the military will no longer give any self-imposed deadlines on when the militants would be driven out after failing to meet previous ones they had set.

Banlaoi said they returned to Mindanao after about a decade away to be mentored by a fugitive Indonesian militant, Ustadz Sanussi, who in turn put them in touch with other Southeast Asian jihadists, notably the Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir.

There is no clear timeline as yet for lifting the martial law in Mindanao amid the ongoing fighting in Marawi City in southern Philippines, the Malacañang Palace said on Saturday. "Especially those registered as fishing boats boarding so many persons, that is really suspicious", Reyes said.

Duterte told his troops that the Maute Group was merely waiting for a "bikil", a reason for them to fire back and that reason was the service of the warrant of arrest against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon on May 23.

"We are not removing this kind of possibility that is why we heightened our maritime patrols", said Reyes.

Padilla said they have requested those who have been giving and those who want to give relief goods to channel the items through the city government.

  • Leroy Wright