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Marawi siege inviting foreign terrorists?

/ 12:12 AM June 23, 2017

It is amazing how a small fraction of the Muslim population is causing so much trouble as to invite a global proxy war in Mindanao. The Mautes are just a tiny clan with about 200 followers. Their issue is not ideological but
feudal—a small clan war. They are being used by the Abu Sayyaf, which is also a small terrorist group, albeit powerful.

The Abu Sayyaf’s power is anchored on  two factors.

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First is the millions of pesos from ransom. As of May 2017, after the group beheaded a decrepit German, it had 27 hostages. At the conservative average estimate of P10 million per hostage, the group could rake in P270 million, or about a quarter of a billion pesos from this number of hostages. Note that the group takes hostages from everywhere, daring recently to expand its kidnap-for-ransom operation to Bohol. The P52.2 million seized by the Marines in Marawi comes from ransom income or from the Islamic State (IS) itself.

Second is its link to IS whose goal is a global caliphate. The idea of a caliphate in Marawi, the largest Muslim city in the Philippines, is pure megalomania, an illusion that the Abu Sayyaf inherited from the IS. An IS rather than Abu Sayyaf strategy, the Marawi war has reportedly drawn foreign Muslim warriors from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya. The IS, using the Abu Sayyaf, wants to replicate the Syrian proxy war, where foreign warriors outnumber local rebels. They want a blood bath. The burning of a Catholic church and the beheadings carry an IS signature and are a provocation.

President Duterte says he was not told about the US presence in Marawi. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Pentagon have formed a more intimate bond through the Balikatan war games. The AFP took the risk of not telling Mr. Duterte ahead of time, thinking he will agree to the effective US role. Is the United States violating the mutual defense treaty?

The US presence, even if limited to noncombatants, is dangerous. True, it is effective in giving critical antiterror training, technology and sophisticated weapons, with drones and the P3 Orion surveillance plane identifying targets, and the OV-10 Bronco doing “precision” bombings. But US presence is inviting the global escalation of the Marawi crisis. The precision bombings, as in Aleppo and Mosul, will result in a lot of Muslim civilian casualties. These atrocities will invite further rapid global escalation.

The AFP-Pentagon combine miscalculated the power of Abu Sayyaf-Maute. Their intel failed to identify massive sophisticated armaments. The AFP is good in jungle warfare, but not in house-to-house urban warfare, that is why it lost the initiative momentarily.

Both AFP-Pentagon and Abu Sayyaf -Maute are dug in, with Agus River as their demarcation line; this promises a protracted war. Time favors the Abu Sayyaf as more foreign troops and funds may pour in. The AFP has to finish this war soonest before it explodes into a full-blown Mindanao war.

BERNIE V. LOPEZ,
[email protected]

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TAGS: Abu Sayyaf, foreign terrorists, Marawi siege, Maute group
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