‘ATTACK MEANT TO GET I.S. APPROVAL’
Marawi clash probably not linked to death of Malaysian IS recruiter last month, says UMS lecturer
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).
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.