Hunt for remaining Maute stragglers continues
MANILA — The hunt for the remaining Maute Group stragglers in newly-liberated Marawi City continues, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said Saturday.
“The physical clearing of structures and search for possible stragglers is still ongoing in certain areas in and around Marawi,” he said.
Earlier, Indonesian ISIS member and Maute ally, Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, was arrested by police officers in Marawi City’s Barangay Luksa Datu 7 a.m. of Nov. 1. He claimed that around 20 to 30 stragglers are still hiding in the ruins.
“Although we can never be 100-percent sure of the actual number of terrorists that are in Marawi, we will exert every effort to eliminate those whom we know about and are unaccounted for based on our information,” the DND spokesperson said.
Earlier last week, three Maute Group stragglers, including Abu Talja, the alleged right-hand man of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, were killed in a firefight with government troops.
This raised to 923 the number of terrorists killed in Marawi City along with 165 soldiers and police officers.
Fighting was declared officially over last Oct. 23 exactly five months after the terrorist attack started on May 23.
On the progress of the rehabilitation of the war-torn city, Andolong said the lead agency is now the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council headed by Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario.
“The President has given the task of rehabilitating Marawi to Secretary Eduardo del Rosario of the HUDCC. As such, all the government agencies involved in Task Force Bangon Marawi, including the DND, will now be taking their guidance from him,” he said.
As this develops, the DND spokesperson said the travel advisory issued on Friday by the Australian Embassy is a reiteration of an advisory they issued in May of this year.
“This should not be a cause for undue alarm since issuing regular travel advisories to citizens is commonly practiced by many countries, including Australia, especially in light of the spate of violent incidents that have been happening all over the world in recent times,” he added.
“Nevertheless, we enjoin everyone to remain vigilant and report to the proper authorities any suspicious activities in your area. Let us all be mindful of our surroundings and work closely with government security forces to ensure that terrorism and violent extremism do not take root in our villages, towns, and cities,” Andolong stressed.
Australia, in its latest travel advisory to the Philippines, said there is a high threat of terrorist attack in the Philippines.
“Exercise heightened caution at this time. Be alert to possible threats around locations that have low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets,” it stated. (PNA)