ISIS foreign terrorists "invaded" Mindanao, some of them killed in Marawi - officials
Foreign terrorists have joined local terror Maute Group in attacking Marawi City and they were among those killed, government officials said on Friday.
In a joint press conference in Davao City, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the rebellion in Mindanao is not localized.
"What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria," Calida said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said there have been Indonesians, Malaysians, and Singaporeans in the Marawi attack.
"There is a certain information that we received which confirmed the killing of 12 members of this group and about half of that number are foreign terrorists. Malaysians, Indonesians, and one other which I could not remember," he said.
"So that confirms the presence of these foreign terrorists," Padilla added.
Padilla said the foreigners were able to enter the Philippines because of its porous borders.
"You yourselves are aware that the way we have been monitoring and reinforcing our borders is still wanting. That is why we are taking measures to strengthen the borders. There is a need to work with other agencies on this regard and we have made the appropriate recommendations," he said.
"Hopefully, those recommendations can be acted on swiftly during the period of martial law so that we can plug all these gaps that had been the reason for their coming into the country," he added.
Padilla said suspected foreign terrorists came in legitimately using different covers.
"There are legitimate covers of people supposedly offering assistance, creating projects here and there and the like," he said.
Thus, Padilla said cooperation has been ongoing with different countries.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the United States and Russia have offered assistance in the Philippine counter-terrorism effort.
"The Press Secretary of the US has expressed solidarity with the Philippines and condemns the recent violence perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group in Marawi in Southern Philippines and he stated that the US will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counter-terrorism groups," he said.
He noted Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano thanked Moscow for its commitment to strengthen cooperation with Manila, particularly in security and intelligence cooperation and in stepping up measures to combat terrorism, especially amid violence in Southern Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte left Cayetano in Russia after he cut short his official visit there in order to be home to personally oversee the situation in Marawi City, which the ISIS-inspired Maute Group occupied since May 23.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial amid the rebellion in Marawi City. Celerina Monte/DMS