Local politicians may tap IS remnants, Army warns | Inquirer News
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Local politicians may tap IS remnants, Army warns

/ 05:00 AM September 04, 2021

MARAWI CITY—As the election fever begins to heat up, the Army command overseeing Lanao del Sur province has warned that local politicians may use remaining groups loyal to the Islamic State (IS) as their goons during the election season.

“Just like people with illegal firearms, they (IS gunmen) can be used by unscrupulous individuals with personal and political motives,” said Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade.

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Cuerpo explained that they had anticipated this possibility “as the group led by the Mautes was also employed by local politicians” in the past.

Maute brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam led a homegrown group of local terrorists that were affiliated with the IS led by Basilan-based Isnilon Hapilon when they attacked and occupied this city for five months in 2017. The Maute brothers and Hapilon were among those who died during fierce fighting with government troops. The ensuing battle ruined the city’s commercial district and left close to 90,000 people still displaced from their homes and communities up to now.

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Small holdouts

After being driven out of Marawi in October 2017, the terrorists maintain small holdouts in the hinterlands of the province where they have since been subjected to continuous manhunt.

Cuerpo said the group’s leadership core was now reduced to just over a dozen people, roaming the stretch of communities in the border of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte provinces and “forcibly recruiting” hapless youth.

On Wednesday, two youngsters from Piagapo town who had joined the local terrorists surrendered to the military saying they were only performing courier roles.

On Aug. 21, some 2,000 villagers in Munai and Tangcal towns in Lanao del Norte evacuated their homes amid a three-hour gunfight between government soldiers and some 30 IS-affiliated gunmen. It was the fiercest fight since last year. —RYAN D. ROSAURO

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TAGS: Army, Election, IS, Lanao del Sur
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