GOVERNMENT troops are prepared to battle extremists, who are purportedly plotting to stage another attack in another southern Philippine city, a military official assured the public on Friday, February 23.
Joint Task Force deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said in a press conference that they were not discounting the possibility that terrorists who survived the war in Marawi last year might launch another offensive against the state forces.
"From our experience from the Marawi siege, we are preparing for another urban warfare. In the eventuality that something similar to Marawi City happens, we should be ready," he told Palace reporters.
"So from the lessons that we learned, we are now re-writing our doctrines, we are now reorganizing our units. We are re-equipping and re-training. So from the side of the armed forces, we are ready for another Marawi siege. Whether it happens in Marawi or elsewhere," he added.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim earlier said Jihadist fighters inspired by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization tried but failed to lay siege to either Iligan or Cotabato City after failing to establish a caliphate in Marawi City, an Islamic city in Lanao del Sur that was left in ruins following the five-month armed conflict between the Maute group and government forces.
Brawner admitted that the defeated terrorists are finding ways to recruit new members to enable them to carry out another deadly siege similar to that in Marawi.
He also said that while Marawi City is "relatively safe and secure," areas outside the war-ravaged city are being targeted by remnants of the Maute Group.
Based on military assessment, however, the militants are not yet capable of infiltrating another city, the military official said.
"As far as Marawi City is concerned, it is relatively safe and secured. But outside Marawi City, especially around Lanao Lake, since January, we have had three encounters already. All of these [are] against believed members of the Maute-ISIS," Brawner said.
"As of now, based on our assessment on the ground, they cannot carry out another attack like what they did in Marawi City," he added.
Following Murad's warning, Brawner expressed hoped that the MILF chief's group would continue helping the government in its advocacy to counter violent extremism and radicalism.
"Of course, we are banking on the MILF to help us with this. They said that they do not believe in violent extremism. So we hope that they can help us in our campaign or advocacy against violent extremism, terrorism, and radicalism," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under martial law until December 31, 2018 to allow the Philippine government troops to "completely quell and put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating to other parts of the country." (SunStar Philippines)