AFP chief: Terrorists’ remnants ‘taken down by end of 2017’
FORT DEL PILAR — Military guns will next take aim at other extremist groups in Mindanao, like the Abu Sayyaf, as fighting to retake Marawi City winds down, said Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año here on Saturday.
The Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf, led by Radullon Sahiron, its Basilan-faction, led by Furuji Indama, and a militia in Maguindanao, led by Commander Bongos, are the next subjects of the military campaign to cleanse Mindanao of extremism, said Año, who was given a testimonial parade by Philippine Military Academy cadets ahead of his mandatory retirement on Oct. 26.
He said the Islamic State-influenced Maute Group was finished, and the remaining fighters were holding out inside two structures “so maybe today [Saturday] or tomorrow [Sunday] this will be over.”
“We just gave them time to surrender and to allow them to release hostages. We didn’t want innocent civilians to be harmed or killed in a close fight,” he said.
He said the group’s defeat proved that all forms of terrorism “could be quashed efficiently and quickly, if everyone helps out.”
“When people report suspicious strangers entering their communities, the information enables the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to plan and react promptly to any threat they bring,” he said.
“Our AFP is ready 24 hours a day, but it needs to be guided. We need to know where the signs of terrorism are so we can quickly suppress violence and protect communities,” he said.
He declined to take credit for the Marawi liberation.
“I am happy the Marawi crisis is over. But I am just the team leader [of a joint military push augmented by the PNP]. All leaders of the Maute Isis are dead. We have killed 908 enemies. We are very confident there are no more ISIS elements in the country, and we will make sure [the terrorist siege in Marawi] never happens again.”
When asked, he said Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, the supposed Malaysian financier of the Marawi siege, had been killed and buried, citing two separate sources.
More troops to Mindanao
Año said the military’s task was to track down Ahmad’s grave site. “I believe he is dead. We don’t monitor him anymore [in the areas where the last Maute fighters are holding out].”
He added, “We will next deploy troops to Sulu, Basilan and Maguindanao so by the end of 2017, we would have taken down all remnants of armed terrorists operating in the region.” —Vince Cabreza with a report from EV Espiritu
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