Duterte aides at­tacked in am­bush Daesh-linked group be­hind as­sault; 9 wounded

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - Hun­dreds of Chi­nese ar­rested in casino raid

MANILA: Seven mil­i­tary body­guards of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte and two other sol­diers were wounded Tues­day in an am­bush by sus­pected mil­i­tants on the eve of his planned visit to the south­ern Philip­pines, the mil­i­tary and pres­i­dent said.

Mil­i­tary spokes­men said a bomb hit the sol­diers’ con­voy as it drove on a road in a south­ern re­gion where an armed group which had pledged al­le­giance to the Daesh group op­er­ated, wound­ing nine.

“My ad­vance party was am­bushed a while ago. The Pres­i­den­tial Se­cu­rity Group was hit by an IED (im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice),” Duterte said in a speech dur­ing a visit to a north­ern Philip­pines mil­i­tary camp.

“But I’m go­ing there. The ad­vice was to post­pone it (the trip), but I said no. We are tak­ing the same route if pos­si­ble,” Duterte added with­out ex­plain­ing the pur­pose of his trip.

The con­voy that was at­tacked in Marawi city also in­cluded lo­cal troops as well as staff mem­bers of the pres­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fice, though no civil­ians were hurt, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

The planned Duterte visit came days af­ter the mil­i­tary be­gan op­er­a­tions against dozens of armed mem­bers of the Maute group holed up in an aban­doned gov­ern­ment build­ing in the main- ly Mus­lim ru­ral town of Butig on Min­danao is­land.

Butig is about 800 kilo­me­ters (500 miles) south of Manila, and an hour-long drive from Marawi.

Fif­teen sol­diers were in­jured in the fight­ing while 35 mil­i­tants were killed, mil­i­tary spokesman Brig.Gen. Resti­tuto Padilla told AFP.

The am­bush came a day af­ter the po­lice said the Maute group left a bomb near the US Em­bassy in Manila which au­thor­i­ties later safely ex­ploded.

The Maute gang was also blamed for a bomb­ing in Duterte’s home town in the south­ern city of Davao in Septem­ber that killed 15 peo­ple. Padilla said it was likely the Maute group was be­hind Tues­day’s am­bush.

“We know their sup­port­ers are sur­round­ing the area and pos­si­bly planted bombs on the side of the roads to dis­rupt the move­ment of troop re­in­force­ments,” Padilla said.

Mil­i­tant groups have waged a decades-long armed in­de­pen­dence strug­gle in the south of the Philip­pines that is be­lieved to have claimed more than 120,000 lives.

On Mon­day, Duterte said Daesh, which con­trolled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, had linked up with the Maute gang, a de­par­ture from pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary de­nials of for­mal links be­tween Daesh and lo­cal ex­trem­ist groups.

More than 1,300 Chi­nese cit­i­zens have been ar­rested in the Philip­pines for work­ing il­le­gally at an un­li­censed on­line gam­ing busi­ness, the im­mi­gra­tion bureau said Tues­day.

China has ex­pressed con­cern over the raid at a casino-ho­tel com­plex in the north­ern Philip­pines and said Manila must guar­an­tee “hu­man­i­tar­ian treat­ment” of those be­ing held.

Some 1,318 peo­ple were de­tained dur­ing the raid on Nov. 24 in An­ge­les city, im­mi­gra­tion bureau spokes­woman Maria An­toinette Man­grobang told AFP.

“A num­ber of them have been charged for im­mi­gra­tion of­fenses, for en­gag­ing in gain­ful ac­tiv­ity at an un­li­censed on­line gam­ing busi­ness,” she said.

Those found guilty are likely to be de­ported, she said, adding that sort­ing through the doc­u­ments of all of those be­ing held would take time.

China is “highly con­cerned about the de­ten­tion by the Philip­pine side of such large num­ber(s) of Chi­nese cit­i­zens,” Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Bei­jing Mon­day.

Sol­diers carry a wounded mem­ber of Philip­pine pres­i­den­tial se­cu­rity group in Lanao del Sur. (Reuters)

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