2 MALAYSIANS AMONG 31 MILITANTS KILLED
They were believed to have entered the Philippines three years ago
MALAYSIANS, Indonesians and Singaporeans are believed to be among those with the Islamic State-linked militants involved in the escalating clash in Mindanao, the Philippines.
Federal police sources have revealed that two Malaysians were among 31 militants killed as of yesterday and identified them as Abdurahman Asmawi from Kelantan and Dr Kamsa Yahya from Kedah.
Abdurahman and Kamsa were believed to have entered the neighbouring country some three years ago on the pretext of conducting religious activities in Mindanao.
They were among four Malaysians, including former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad, believed to be involved in IS militant activities in the southern Philippines.
Philippines Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, in a press conference yesterday, did not reveal any identities of those killed, but affirmed foreigners had long been in the country with the terrorists.
Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans were believed to be involved in the ongoing fight in Marawi, Mindanao, he said in the briefing held in Davao City.
“They also assisted in bombmaking. We are continuously verifying that there have been a number of them killed.
“There is certain information that we received which confirmed the killing of 12 members of this group.
“About half of that number (of those killed) are foreign terrorists from Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as other (countries). So, that confirms the presence of these foreign terrorists,” he said.
Padilla also noted there were foreign terrorists killed in several operations carried out in the last few months, adding that the Philippine authorities had been communicating with the respective government for assistance in information sharing.
Since the tension, the Philippine security forces have stepped up their operations to clear Mindanao conflict zones of militants, who are still in the affected areas.
As of Thursday midnight, the Philippine troops had reached several parts of Marawi City, which was held by terrorist elements in the past few days, and neutralised 18 IS fighters, bringing the total number of terrorists killed to 31.
“The operations are ongoing and there are still firefights between our forces and the militants in certain parts of the city.
“But, the objective of our armed forces is to clear the city as soon as possible,” said Padilla.
According to Reuters, the Philippines armed forces have deployed attack helicopters and special forces to drive rebels of the IS-linked Maute group out of Marawi City since Thursday.
The announcement elevated the threat of what experts and the military said were moves by IS to exploit the poverty and lawlessness of predominantly Muslim Mindanao island to establish a base for extremists from Southeast Asia and beyond.
“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens,” Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida said at a news conference.
“It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of IS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria,” he said.
On Tuesday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao, home to about 20 million people after gunmen who declared allegiance to the IS group rampaged through Marawi City.
Duterte had warned that the martial law would be “harsh” and “like a dictatorship”, stressing the imposition of direct military control in Mindanao could last up to a year.
Meanwhile, Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said there had been no movement of Filipinos, especially fleeing militants, trying to sneak into Sabah following the conflict.
“We have intensified out operations.
“We are monitoring the sea closely with our counterpart from the other side and we are also doing land patrols,” he said.
On the presence of heavy security assets in Felda Sahabat lately, Bari said it was “a normal operation” since the establishment of Esscom to clear the area of illegal immigrants and terrorist elements.
“This is a continuous step we carried out in all districts under the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone to ensure there is no landing.
“If we don’t do such operations, how are we going to track down intruders? We cannot depend on reports lodged by members of the public.
“These are some of the measures we must take. We are being proactive because we don’t want to wait for something to happen,” he said, adding that Esscom had carried out 651 integrated operations involving enforcement agencies last year.