‘AT­TACK MEANT TO GET I.S. AP­PROVAL’

Marawi clash prob­a­bly not linked to death of Malaysian IS re­cruiter last month, says UMS lec­turer

New Straits Times - - News - AVILA GERAL­DINE KOTA KIN­A­BALU avila@nst.com.my

AHANDFUL of mil­i­tants from the re­gion is in trou­bled Marawi city in south­ern Philip­pines to back the no­to­ri­ous Maute group, which is seek­ing recog­ni­tion from the Is­lamic State.

Min­danao-born lec­turer Dr Aye­sah Uy Abubakar said the at­tack launched by the ter­ror group in Marawi City last week was its way of mak­ing a name for it­self and not likely linked to the death of Malaysian IS re­cruiter Muham­mad Wan­ndy Mo­hamed Jedi re­cently.

Aye­sah, who lec­tures at Univer­siti Malaysia Sabah here, said Malaysians and In­done­sians, and oth­ers from the re­gion, were prob­a­bly in Marawi sup­port­ing the Maute group.

She said the Maute group was based in the Lanao del Norte area, with Marawi City as the cap­i­tal, and the at­tack and kid­nap­pings it had com­mit­ted in the past were to build a rep­u­ta­tion for it­self in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Me­laka-born Wan­ndy was killed in a drone at­tack in Syria on April 29. Wan­ndy had led mil­i­tants from Malaysia in Syria since 2014 and was re­spon­si­ble for re­crut­ing fight­ers and co­or­di­nat­ing at­tacks.

“The vi­o­lence started be­cause the Philip­pine armed forces con­ducted an op­er­a­tion to lo­cate Abu Sayyaf leader Is­nilon Hapi­lon, who is now part of Maute.”

Re­port­edly, the group fired back and vi­o­lence spread through­out Marawi city, where two Malaysian mil­i­tants were among those killed.

Fol­low­ing the at­tack, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte de­clared mar­tial law in the south­ern re­gion of Min­danao, home to about 20 mil­lion peo­ple, as clashes es­ca­lated.

As of yes­ter­day, the Philip­pine au­thor­i­ties con­firmed those killed in­cluded 61 Maute mil­i­tants, 20 troops and 19 civil­ians.

Aye­sah, who is at­tached to the Hu­man­i­ties, Arts and Her­itage Fac­ulty, said there were sev­eral fac­tors why mil­i­tants were mak­ing their pres­ence known in south­ern Philip­pines:

SECURIT Y threats from Abu Sayyaf, the main group re­spon­si­ble for kid­nap-for-ran­som ac­tiv­i­ties;

PURGING of lead­ers and groups in­volved in the drug trade;

BREAK­AWAY groups like Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fight­ers from the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF), who are dis­sat­is­fied with the peace process and have re­sorted to vi­o­lence to get the at­ten­tion of the gov­ern­ment;

PRES­ENCE of pri­vate armed groups that are nor­mally or­gan­ised by politi­cians and pri­vate busi­nesses; and,

ON­GO­ING and in­com­plete peace process with MILF, Moro Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front (MNLF) and the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines-New Peo­ple’s Army (CPP-NPA), which con­tin­ues to face ob­sta­cles in how the gov­ern­ment can im­ple­ment its signed agree­ments.

While for­mer pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III ac­com­plished the Bangsamoro Ba­sic Law, Aye­sah said this had not been passed by Par­lia­ment.

“De­spite that, Duterte ap­pears to be more open to MNLF, MILF and CPP-NPA.

“How­ever, there are no signs and guar­an­tees that his al­lies in Par­lia­ment will sup­port this.

“There is also the fact that Philip­pine so­ci­ety is awash with firearms and am­mu­ni­tion, legally and il­le­gally owned, as the coun­try fol­lows Amer­i­can gun own­er­ship laws.”

In this en­vi­ron­ment, she added, there were more weapons owned by in­di­vid­u­als than the com­bined weapons of the three non-state groups (MILF, MNLF and CPPNPA).

AP PIC

With white flags to in­di­cate they are non-com­bat­ants, res­i­dents con­tinue to flee as troops bat­tle mil­i­tants in Marawi, the Philip­pines, yes­ter­day. Philip­pine forces say they now con­trol most of the south­ern city.

Dr Aye­sah Uy Abubakar says the Maute group is seek­ing to build a rep­u­ta­tion for it­self in­ter­na­tion­ally.

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