Big blow to Daesh as Philippine army eliminates top militants

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Año shows images of Islamic militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon, right, and Omarkhayam Maute, left, during a press conference at a military camp in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2017
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Big blow to Daesh as Philippine army eliminates top militants

MANILA: Daesh has suffered a major setback in East Asia. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported to have killed two of the main leaders of Daesh who have held parts of Marawi city on Mindanao in the Philippines since May 23.
The crisis has left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly members of the Maute group, but including 162 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday announced the deaths of Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute. The two men were killed during an early morning ground assault on the remaining stronghold of the Maute group in Marawi.
“I confirm the killing of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute,” Lorenzana said. The bodies of the slain militant leaders have been recovered and will be subjected to DNA tests, he added.
AFP Chief Gen. Eduardo Año called their deaths “the straw that has broken the camel’s back” and claimed “the Marawi crisis will be over sooner than later.”
Hapilon, a former Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader regarded by the US as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, was Daesh’s designated leader for Southeast Asia. The US had placed a $5 million bounty on him, while the Philippine government had offered a 17.4 million peso bounty (approximately $348,000).
Maute was the co-founder, along with his brother Abdullah, of Daesh. Maute had a 5 million peso bounty on his head.
Lorenzana said the offensive began at 2 a.m. and lasted around four hours. It was triggered by information provided by a former female hostage on the location of Isnilon and Maute, he added.
“She was able to confirm the presence of Isnilon and Maute in that particular building.”
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Hapilon was hit in the chest during an exchange of fire with government forces. Maute was shot in the head by a sniper.
Año said troops were also able to recover seven other bodies of suspected militants.
The operation also resulted in the rescue of 20 civilian hostages, including a two-month-old girl.
Steve Cutler, an international security analyst and former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Manila, told Arab News that the death of Hapilon and Maute is a major setback for Daesh.
“It is a huge blow to Daesh... and any dreams that Daesh have of establishing a caliphate here.”
Cutler said that the longer the Marawi crisis continues, the more strength the narrative of Daesh establishing a caliphate in East Asia has. But the death of the two leaders, he said, completely changes that narrative.
“These deaths are game changers. They remove the guiding lights — the leading personalities of the movement here,” Cutler said. They will be replaced, he added, but “the replacements are not charismatic leaders of the caliber of these two.”
And while the death of Hapilon and Maute diminishes the morale of the militants, it greatly improves that of the Philippine government.
“It strengthens the general view of the competence of the Philippine forces and their ability to fight effectively,” Cutler said. “Daesh is under destruction in the Middle East and their plans for the Philippines to become a hub in Southeast Asia are severely damaged.
“(The militants) will continue to fight, and will kill more. They are still dangerous and cannot be underestimated. But they will not succeed (in their aims),” he added.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, however, while admitting it was a major blow to Daesh, described the deaths of the two militant leaders as “a temporary setback.”
“This will not stop them,” he said. “Remember, Daesh is a religious organization.” He warned that their deaths do not mean there is no longer a Daesh “presence” in the Philippines.
“There’s still the ASG and other groups (such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” he said, noting that a new generation with Daesh-provided strategies and tactics will eventually replace them.
Año believes it will just be a matter of days before the government can finally declare that Marawi has been freed from Daesh’s control.
“I’m certain that the neutralization of Hapilon and Omar is the last straw. The terrorists will crumble. It is a dead-end. There is nowhere to go for them,” Año said. He then urged the remaining Maute fighters to free their hostages.
Lorenzana said government forces are still pursuing Mahmud Ahmad, said to be Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist. Ahmad is suspected of channeling more than P30 million (approximately $600,000) from Daesh to fund the Marawi siege.
The army believes he is currently in one of the buildings inside the main battle zone.
Around 30 militants, including eight foreign terrorists, reportedly remain in the area. The militants are also believed to still hold 22 civilian hostages.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.