Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, right, shakes hands with US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim. (Arab News photo)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

MANILA: 127 days into the ongoing Marawi crisis, the Philippine authorities have yet to establish how Daesh-inspired Maute fighters and foreign jihadists laid siege to the country's only Islamic city; the capital of Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.

“We have not yet discovered how (the foreign fighters) got in,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday in a joint press conference with the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, to mark the end of a bilateral multi-agency counterterrorism drill called Tempest Wind. “A lot of them (have come) from Malaysia, Indonesia, from Jolo, Sulu, Basilan and other places in Mindanao.”

Aside from members of the Maute group, Lorenzana said around 25 foreign jihadists are believed to have entered Marawi, and over half of them had been killed so far.

The defense chief added, “We are going to intensify our intelligence efforts. We are trying to upgrade technical capabilities with the help of the US and other countries.

“I think we have no choice but to really solve this problem because if we do not, then it will crop up again in places other than Marawi,” he continued.

Kim agreed, saying, “It's obvious that we face a real threat.” The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said, are now doing everything possible to contain the situation.

He stressed that the US and the Philippines would continue to strengthen their alliance in the fight against terrorism, saying “counterterrorism requires cooperation,” and pointed out that Tempest Wind — which took place as the Philippines faces its biggest internal security crisis in years — was just the latest example of the two countries’ close ties.

“It was a challenging drill for both sides, intended to test and improve the ability of our nations to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations,” the ambassador said.

The drill included a scenario involving a real commercial airliner filled with over 150 actors who played hostages to create a realistic environment in which to test bilateral interagency decision-making and tactical response.

“What we learned through this exercise will help us focus future bilateral training to enhance our crisis-response capabilities,” said Kim. “Counterterrorism continues to be a shared priority for our two nations, and of course important to the entire region.”


Trump fan to plead guilty to 2018 package bombs

Updated 24 min 38 sec ago
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Trump fan to plead guilty to 2018 package bombs

  • The package bombs’ intended recipients included billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama
  • Cesar Sayoc’s criminal record dates back to 1991

NEW YORK: A fan of US President Donald Trump who mailed parcel bombs to prominent Democratic figures last October was set to appear in court Thursday, where he was expected to plead guilty to some of the 30 charges against him.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, who was arrested in Florida on October 26 following a massive manhunt, was due in federal court in New York at 4:00 p.m.
Although it was not known which charges he would plead guilty to, all relate to the 16 package bombs he is accused of mailing from a Florida post office to several well-known people who oppose Trump, as well as the Manhattan offices of CNN. He previously pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The packages’ intended recipients included billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, actor Robert De Niro and several Democratic lawmakers, including 2020 presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
None of the packages exploded or even reached their targets and authorities questioned the actual danger they posed.
But by targeting Democrats, Sayoc — who also goes by the alias Cesar Altieri and was identified by DNA recovered from the packages — helped contribute to heightened tensions during the US midterm election campaign season.
Sayoc’s partial guilty plea Thursday could help mitigate the severity of a sentence if he is convicted on all counts.
As his trial loomed, information from Sayoc’s past began to filter into the public sphere, fueling the debate about extremism in the age of Trump and social media — a debate that grew more urgent as 11 people were shot dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue later in October.
Estranged from his family and in financial distress, Sayoc lived in a white van plastered in stickers proclaiming his admiration for the US president.
His criminal record dates back to 1991, peppered with convictions for theft, fraud, violence and a threat to bomb his electric utility company.
A former strip club manager and an adept bodybuilder and martial arts practitioner, Sayoc discovered a passion for Trump just as his political star was rising.
His social media posts took a politically radical turn: he’s seen wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, sharing pro-Trump images and posting articles from ultra-conservative and conspiracy-driven websites such as Infowars and Breitbart.
“He was very angry and angry at the world, at blacks, Jews, gays,” recalled Debra Gureghian, the general manager of a Florida pizzeria where Sayoc worked as a delivery driver for several months.
Lawyer Ron Lowy, who defended Sayoc in 2002 and remained close to his family, described him on NPR in October as someone whose “intellect is limited, and who is “like a little boy in a man’s body.”