Whoever doubted that the US was offended by President Duterte suggesting that the US military presence in the Philippines should be ended within two years. First a group of up to 500 terrorists, many from other countries, infiltrated and occupied the centre of Marawi, a City of over 200,000, in Mindanao – as if in response. The Philippine military was initially shocked to face such powerful weapons, but have the situation coming gradually under control, they maintain. Now a second event occurred, or rather nearly occurred. The military seems to have stopped a second town being occupied, this time by a well-know ISIS-sympathising group – The Bangsamoro.
That was enough for Mattis, US Secretary Of State for defence, to start making noises, that the wind down of US military numbers in the Philippines in 2014, was possibly premature. The game seems to be to make as much noise as possible until it seems almost justifiable for the US to unilaterally invade the Philippines, Duterte or no Duterte. How convenient that ISIS yet again is acting in US interests, as it does in Syria. The US claims to be fighting ISIS, but in fact, started ISIS, equipped, trained and delivered the terrorists to do their bidding around the world.
The Philippines do not want the US military coming back in. They are buying RUssian military hardware, but in the crisis as has occurred in Marawi, the AFP has asked the US to assist in identifying the whereabouts of the terrorists using spying-capable aircraft and drones.
The events that are unfolding need to be looked at in this context. Can Duterte defeat ISIS and keep the USA out?
Mattis gaining power in Trump’s Cabinet
ISIS-linked militants storm school, take hostages in south Philippines village
Government troops are now engaging members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after the terrorists overran the village of Malagakit, located just outside of Pigcawayan town, Chief Inspector Realan Mamon said.
Pigcawayan Mayor Eliseo Garsesa said that about 200 armed men entered the Christian-Muslim village early Wednesday morning. Police earlier estimated that around 300 Islamist fighters raided the locality.
The police chief confirmed that the militants entered the village shortly after 5:00am on Wednesday.
“We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,” Mamon said, according to Reuters.
The mayor revealed that authorities had received intelligence reports about text message chatter that the “armed groups were coming.” Garsesa, however, said that such messages were common, and it could not always be verified, the Manila Times reports.
The militants are holding 12 hostages – 6 adult males and six children, according to the Manila Bulletin. The ongoing fighting resulted in the wounding of at least one auxiliary force soldier of the armed forces, known as CAFGU.
Government troops managed to push back the initial jihadist attack, but ISIS-linked fighters managed to take at least five people hostage as they retreated, according to a spokesperson for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
“But as they (BIFF fighters) were escaping, they took some civilians hostage and [used them as] human shields,” Capt. Arvin Encinas,told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
So far, the Philippines Army has been unable to determine whether students and teachers were among the captives.
Mamon, also could not confirm initial reports that students were being held hostage after the terrorists reportedly occupied a local school.
“We are still verifying that report,” Mamon told the Inquirer by telephone.
For almost a month now, the Philippines army has been battling radical Islamist militants in Marawi, the capital of the country’s second largest island, Mindanao.
Apart from the main Maute terror group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), there are around 20 other foreign and local jihadist cells, including BIFF, operating in Mindanao, Solicitor General Jose Calida revealed on Monday.
“In addition to ISIS-linked local rebel groups, there are also ISIS cell groups that operate all over Mindanao. These cell groups conduct coordinated attacks with the aforesaid rebel groups,” Calida said.
The death toll from the fighting in the Philippines has so far surpassed 300 casualties. Some 225 militants, 59 soldiers and 26 civilians have been killed in the clashes according to official government figures.
On Tuesday, president Rodrigo Duterte warned of a full-scale civil war if the ongoing violence spills into other parts of Mindanao. He urged the local separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which was recently offered some kind of autonomy, to “take care of the area they want” and join the fight against foreign-influenced Maute and other terrorist cells.
“Because if there’s civil war, there would be killings. Here in Mindanao, there are more Christians and they have better guns. They are buying. The rich ones, they’re stockpiling guns,” Duterte said, according to the Inquirer. “That’s what’s dangerous. To prevent a communal war, we really need to stop this.”