Another Marawi-type siege may be coming, says Philippines

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana with elite Army troopers.
Updated 09 January 2018
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Another Marawi-type siege may be coming, says Philippines

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija: Troops should prepare for a possible repeat of the Marawi siege in “another city” in the country, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told them on Monday.
Lorenzana admitted that more foreign terrorists are reported to have entered Mindanao.
In a speech during the Philippine Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) turnover ceremony here, the defense chief warned the troops that they will again be called upon later on, or “maybe immediately” as there’s still “some work to do in Mindanao.
“It is not far-fetched that one of these days they (Daesh-inspired militants) will again hold another city for quite some time.”
Lorenzana made the statement after a petition urged the Supreme Court to stop the year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao. The petitioners claimed martial law has no factual and legal basis.
But in a news conference after the turnover ceremony, the defense chief expressed readiness to defend the extension of martial law as there is “continuing rebellion” in the southern Philippines.
“It started in May and continued until October. It is the belief of the armed forces and the police that there is continuing reorganization of the rebellious forces. They would again conduct a Marawi-type operation some time in the future. I also believe that,” Lorenzana said.
He added that “the rebellious forces were not all killed in Marawi.” Quite a number, according to the defense chief, “were able to extricate themselves, and they (now) are somewhere there in Mindanao.
“Some of them are in Central Mindanao, some are in Lanao,” Lorenzana said.
Based on reports from the military, the police and also from civilians, recruitment is in progress and there are also small groups conducting training.
“So we will address those during this martial law extension,” Lorenza stated.
When asked to confirm a statement by a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) official on the arrival of more foreign fighters in Mindanao, Lorenzana said: “That is also what we got and we are trying to confirm it. That’s also another reason why it bolsters our argument to extend the martial law.”
Lorenzana noted that if it is confirmed that more foreign terrorists have entered the country, “the more we are going to do it strictly in Mindanao, fighting against them using martial law.”
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, earlier told Arab News that despite the liberation of Marawi City in October last year, Daesh-oriented groups in Mindanao have not been completely defeated.
“And as far as an intelligence report is concerned, their recruitment is ongoing in Mindanao,” he said. “Expect that they will surface once again.”
The MILF official added that “reports of the arrival of Daesh personalities from the Middle East is very much happening in Mindanao, especially in the island province of Sulu and Basilan.
“I don’t have the actual count but they are increasing as per information coming from the ground,” Iqbal said, noting that because of what happened to them in Iraq and in Syria where they were practically defeated, remnants of Daesh are now finding ways to survive.
“And they’re finding Mindanao as one of the alternative places where they can survive because they have a natural ally here in the Abu Sayyaf and Daesh-oriented groups in Mindanao. They will find these places as the most natural ones to go.”
Meanwhile, when asked by Arab News if high-value targets had been identified among the foreign terrorists who may already be in Mindanao, Lorenzana said “none so far.” He added, though, that for now the military is going after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“We are actually trying to contain the BIFF because they are the ones giving us problems now. They are harassing civilians; they are also fighting our troops. So our attention is now focused on them.”


Pope prays for those stricken by California wildfires

Updated 18 November 2018
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Pope prays for those stricken by California wildfires

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has prayed for victims of California’s wildfires and freezing weather on the US East Coast.
Addressing tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, including pilgrims from New York and New Jersey. Francis prayed that “the Lord welcome the deceased into his peace, comfort family members and sustain all those involved in rescue efforts.”
Francis said he wanted to offer a “special prayer to all those stricken by the fires that are scourging California, and now also for the victims of the freeze of the east coast of the United States.”
At least 76 people perished, and hundreds are unaccounted for in the California wildfires. In the eastern US, an unusually early winter snowstorm last week was blamed for at least seven deaths.