Philippines on alert for attack by pro-Daesh militants

Philippine security forces are keeping a close watch on all major cities, including Manila, amid reports that militants from a pro-Daesh alliance behind last year’s Marawi siege are planning another attack. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Philippines on alert for attack by pro-Daesh militants

MANILA: Philippine security forces are keeping a close watch on all major cities, including Manila, amid reports that militants from a pro-Daesh alliance behind last year’s Marawi siege are planning another attack, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.
The alert comes as the government acknowledges that although the military suppressed the rebellion by Daesh-inspired Maute militants and liberated Marawi City after nearly five months of fighting last year, the threat of insurgency remains.
In a press briefing, Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that there was still a possibility of increased terrorist activity on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines.
He said that all reports of activities of militant groups in the country were being taken very seriously.
“We have complete and continuous monitoring by the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police. And of course, we have the trilateral and bilateral conventions and protocols and agreements with other countries, so we are doing continuous aerial and coastal monitoring,” Datuin said.
The army statement came in the wake of reports that remnants of the Maute group who escaped before the military retook Marawi City last October are “regrouping, retraining and recruiting for another attack.”
Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, the Philippines Army chief, earlier said that militants who had escaped the battle in Marawi with huge sums of cash looted from homes were using the funds to recruit new members and re-arm, and to possibly stage similar attacks.
“The recruitment continues, meaning when there is recruitment there is still a possibility that they will besiege another city, not necessarily Marawi City. That is a big possibility,” he told reporters.
On Monday, Maj. Ronald Suscano, spokesman for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the Maute remnants broke into smaller groups, with some slipping into the capital Manila to carry out bombings.
During the weekend, joint military and police teams arrested Abdul Nasser Lomondot, a sub-leader of the Maute Group in Manila. Lomondot was reportedly involved in violent activities perpetrated by the militant group, including in the planning of Marawi siege. He was arrested with fellow Maute member Rizasalam Lomondot.
In February, authorities also arrested Fehmi Lassoued, alias John Rasheed Lassoned, an Egyptian who is said to be a high-ranking member of Daesh. Lassoued was arrested after police and military intelligence teams raided an apartment in Manila.
“Anything is possible,” said Datuin, adding that the government security forces were closely monitoring all city and urban areas to thwart militant attacks, especially during the Holy Week. “We have a standing order to prevent terroristic acts from happening in these critical days,” he said.
The US last week described the Maute Group and the Islamic State in the Philippines (ISP) as globally designated terrorist organizations.
Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said the US was very concerned about Daesh’s presence in Southeast Asia, the most visible example of which was the Daesh network in the Philippines that took control of Marawi. He said that the Maute Group and the ISP are among the most ambitious affiliates of the Daesh network.
“(Daesh) fighters, ideologues, recruiters, are still active. Some are active in the Philippines; some are active in other countries in the region. And so the United States and the State Department in particular are looking very closely at what we can do,” he said.
Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson for the Philippines Department of National Defense, told Arab News: “Daesh-Maute needs funds and resources to sustain their operations. With the affirmation of their status as a terrorist organization by the US government, the flow of money from their supporters to their cells will be adversely affected, and their network as well as movement of their members will be monitored more closely. The world suddenly just became even smaller for them.”


British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

Updated 21 min 49 sec ago
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British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

  • MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019
  • The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown with her pro-EU MPs on Wednesday over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal, which could influence her entire negotiation strategy.
MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019.
May says she expects to get an agreement with Brussels, but warned that any attempt to tie her hands could undermine the ongoing negotiations.
She averted a rebellion by pro-EU MPs in her Conservative Party on the issue of parliamentary powers last week with a promise of a compromise, but within days they had rejected her proposal as inadequate.
Instead they worked with peers to introduce their own amendment to the unelected upper House of Lords, which agreed it by a landslide on Monday.
The amendment now returns to MPs in the elected lower House of Commons, where Conservative rebels will ally with opposition parties in a bid to finally make it law.
May’s spokesman refused to say if he believes the government has the numbers to win the vote, but made clear that no more concessions would be forthcoming.
“We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords,” he said, adding that it “would undermine our ability in the negotiations to get the best deal for the country.”
“We will be retabling our original amendment,” he said, adding: “We hope that all MPs will be able to support the government’s position.”
The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament.
May commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons, made possible through an alliance with Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
A victory for the pro-EU rebels would embolden them ahead of debates next month on Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union, which they are seeking to keep as close as possible.
It would likely anger euroskeptics, who accuse the rebels of seeking to thwart Brexit.
They are also becoming increasingly frustrated with the withdrawal process under May’s leadership.
Leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve denied he was trying to undermine the government or stop Brexit, but warned that if parliament rejected the final Brexit deal, there would be a crisis.
“That’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” he told Sky News television.
“The very reason I’ve prompted this amendment is to provide a mechanism to make sure that we don’t come to government collapse immediately.”
But euroskeptic Conservative MP Graham Stringer said Grieve and his supporters were only interested in “sabotaging the whole process.”
“The purpose of the latest Grieve ruse is to give parliament the power to delay or stop Brexit,” he said.
Despite agreement on Britain’s financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights, the Brexit talks are progressing slowly, and there are few hopes of a breakthrough at an EU summit later this month.
Both sides are still publicly aiming for an agreement in October, but this is looking more and more difficult.
Negotiations are currently stalled on how to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, and neighboring EU member Ireland when Britain develops its own trade and customs policies.
“Serious divergences” remain over Northern Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday after a final round of talks between London and Brussels ahead of the European summit.
The British government has also yet to decide on what it wants from the future economic relationship.
It has been clear about one area, security cooperation — but many of its proposals were on Tuesday knocked back by Barnier.
He said Britain could not stay in the European Arrest Warrant, take part in meetings of policing agency Europol or access EU-only police databases.
“We need more realism about what is and what is not possible,” he said.