Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
MARAWI CITY, Philippines – The Philippine general who has jurisdiction over areas notorious for the presence of terrorists denied there are up to 1,200 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in the country.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) that covers Marawi City, said the report he got is there’s over a thousand Indonesian and Malaysian fighters in Syria right now that governments fear “will be coming back here [in the region].”
“What the Malaysian President told us is there are more or less 1,000 Indonesians and 300 Malaysians over there in Syria,” said Galvez on Monday, June 5.
“They are not here. They’re in Syria,” Galvez said.
Galvez said the military has been cooperating with the Bureau of Immigration to make sure they do not come to the Philippines.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on Sunday, June 4, there are 1,200 ISIS fighters in the Philippines.
Galvez said there are “foreign fighters” in the country but they only number “maybe two dozen or even more” but “not more than 30.”
At least 8 foreigh fighters are believed to have been killed, based on official reports. But Galvez estimated that at least 12 were already killed in Marawi City.
ISIS previously called on its followers in Southeast Asia to fight for the terror group either in Syria or in the Philippines.
Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon is supposed to be the “emir” of ISIS in Southeast Asia.
According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, ISIS formally recognized Hapilon in December 2016. The international terrorist group supposedly instructed Hapilon to establish a caliphate in Central Mindanao.
Galvez doesn’t believe the ISIS sympahtizers in the Philippines – the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Maute Group – have been recognized, however. He said the attack in Marawi City was their bid to gain that recognition.
According to former regional vice governor Norodin Alonto Lucman, a traditional leader who was trapped here at the height of the fighting, there are up to 700 enemies inside the combat zone. – Rappler.com