Marawi ‘liberated from Daesh,’ Duterte declares

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte poses with female soldiers during his visit at Bangolo town in Marawi city on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Marawi ‘liberated from Daesh,’ Duterte declares

MANILA: Marawi City has been liberated from Daesh after five months of violence, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday.
The day before, special forces from the elite Scout Rangers killed militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon, former head of the Abu Sayyaf group and Daesh leader in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, co-founder of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
The fighting began in May when the Philippines army and police launched a joint operation in Marawi to capture Hapilon, and the militants counter-attacked. More than 1,000 people have died, mostly militants but including 162 soldiers and police officers and 47 civilians, and more than 300,000 villagers have been displaced from their homes.
“I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of the rehabilitation,” Duterte told soldiers in a speech on Tuesday.
Army chief Gen. Eduardo Ano said the death of Hapilon and Omar was a blow to Daesh.
“We have shown the world that there is no place for any Daesh here in the Philippines. We will not allow it,” he said.
“The death of these two leaders and the neutralization of more than 800 Maute-Daesh members have destroyed their infrastructure and organization here, so this should make other Daesh foreign fighters planning to come here to think twice. We are prepared for them.”
Despite the official declaration that Marawi has been liberated, about 30 militants remain in the city, holding at least 20 hostages.
The remaining fighters include Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian professor who has been in the Philippines since 2014 and is expected to replace Hapilon as the local Daesh leader. Ahmad is thought to have channeled about $600,000 from Daesh to pay for weapons and food for militants during the Marawi fighting.
Philippines military chief admitted that the war was “not completely over,” but Ano said: “The small number of the remaining enemy ... does not constitute a serious threat.
“What remains now is mopping up operations against Maute-Daesh stragglers in a small area,” Año said, and the government would now begin damage assessment before rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the military spokesman, said: “The remaining enemy force is no longer a force to reckon with,” and clearing operations were underway “to finish them off should they decide to continue the fight. Major operations have been concluded.”
Another military spokesman, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said any remaining fighters were “stragglers — leaderless and in disarray. We have significantly degraded their tactical capability and under no circumstances will they be able to reverse the situation that has rendered them defeated.”


‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

Updated 44 min 17 sec ago
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‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

  • Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day
  • ‘If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote’

KABUL: From a university student to a middle-aged housewife, Afghans planning to vote in the October 20 parliamentary election say they are willing to risk their lives for democracy.
Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day due to threats of violence and expectations for massive fraud.
Six people across the war-torn country explain why their vote matters.
Out with the old and in with the new is Omaid Sharifi’s hope for the legislative election.
The 32-year-old artist, who is voting for the first time, wants to see a new generation of politicians take their seats in the next parliament.
Sharifi, co-founder of Kabul-based street art collective ArtLords, was inspired to vote by the large cohort of young, educated candidates among the more than 2,500 contesting the ballot.
“I am concerned (about security) but I think this is the price of democracy we have to pay,” he said.
First-time voter Fatima Sadeqi wants to stop criminals, thieves and corrupt people from entering the next parliament.
The 55-year-old housewife and her eight family members plan to support the same candidate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“We are tired of poverty and insecurity,” she said.
“I hope the new parliament is a better place, full of good people.”
Shirin Agha wants his 10 children to grow up in a peaceful Afghanistan — and he is willing to die to help make that happen.
The 45-year-old potter in the eastern city of Jalalabad is a first-time voter and plans to back “a good Muslim and an honest person.”
“I want the new parliament to bring fundamental changes to the economy, education and security so that our children can live in peace,” Agha said.
“If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote.”
A sense of “duty and responsibility” is pushing English literature student Zahra Faramarz to vote — but she admits being “anxious” about security.
Faramarz’s polling station is located in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kabul where the Daesh group has carried out devastating attacks in recent months.
But the 21-year-old said it was important to vote to ensure her community has a voice in the lower house.
“If we don’t, someone else will select the candidates ... that is not good for us,” she said.
After disappointing results in the previous two elections, Ghulam Farooq Adil hopes it will be third time lucky on October 20.
The 29-year-old public servant from the western city of Herat plans to vote for an “honest” candidate who can help bring peace to Afghanistan.
“I want the new parliament to come up with a solid plan to end the war,” Adil said.
“I need to see changes, at least for the future of my son.”
Abdul Karim believes voting is a religious obligation for Muslim men and women.
“They must vote,” said the 85-year-old retiree in Kabul, who is voting for only the second time in his life.
But in return, the next parliament should “serve our nation, serve our land and provide” job opportunities for the poor, he said.
“We vote for Afghanistan and we expect our incoming MPs to make solid decisions for our nation’s well-being.”