MANILA, Philippines – The threat from Islamic State-linked groups on Marawi City is “very low” two years since the siege erupted.
“The threat posed by Maute-ISIS has gone very low after the death of Abu Dar, the last remaining leader of the group,” said Colonel Romeo Brawner, commander of the Marawi-based 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army.
On Thursday, May 23, it has been two years since the bloody siege that killed more than 1,000 civilians and troops. About 75% of Marawi residents have since returned to their homes, but at least 50,000 who lived in the main battleground remain displaced. (READ: Frustrated Marawi evacuees still can’t go home 2 years after the siege)
Brawner said 160 former Maute Group fighters have surrendered with their firearms.
But the military is keeping its eye on a small band of remnants. There’s less than 30, according to Brawner.
Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) that oversees Marawi and most areas threatened by ISIS-linked armed groups, said continued vigilance is important.
“Continuous vigilance should be maintained to preempt possible retaliatory attacks by the remnants or supporters of the group,” said Dela Vega.
Dela Vega said martial law and sustained military operations have allowed the military to “contain” the threats.
“Likewise with the establishment of the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), other possible source of threat was greatly reduced as most of the PAG (private armed groups) adheres to the peace process,” Dela Vega said.
BARMM was established in March after it was approved in a plebiscite in January.
While the security situation improved in Marawi and nearby towns, ISIS-linked groups were tagged in bloody attacks in western Mindanao, particularly in Basilan and Sulu.