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.”


Zimbabwe’s split opposition helping Mugabe’s successor to victory

Supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa sit, during the launch of the party's election manifesto in Harare, Thursday, June, 7, 2018. (AP)
Updated 37 min 20 sec ago
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Zimbabwe’s split opposition helping Mugabe’s successor to victory

  • Twenty-three candidates — the highest number in the country’s election history — are in the running for the presidential race after haggling over the allocation of parliamentary seats
  • In May the party held a so-called “healing session” to appease disgruntled members who had threatened to “donate” their votes to the opposition

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s divided opposition could bolster the long ruling party’s chances of victory after failing to forge a solid coalition for the country’s first elections without Robert Mugabe.
Twenty-three candidates — the highest number in the country’s election history — are in the running for the presidential race after haggling over the allocation of parliamentary seats, scuttling a plan by the opposition to form a united front in general elections due on July 30.
But the real battle is seen to be between the ruling Zanu-PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the party which has posed the most formidable challenge to Zanu-PF’s grip on power.
The main presidential candidates are Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who succeeded Mugabe after a brief military takeover last November and Nelson Chamisa, 40, who took over as leader of the MDC following the death of opposition veteran Morgan Tsvangirai in February.
“The unprecedented numbers of aspiring candidates is an indication of the opening of political space and an interest by Zimbabweans to take part in politics,” said Rushweat Mukundu, of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.
Mnangagwa who took over from Mugabe, ending his nearly four-decade rule in which he presided over the country’s economic and political decline, has vowed to hold clean elections and break from past history of violence-tainted polls.
Zanu-PF “has created the impression that it has broken from its past of violent and contestable elections, hence the unprecedented numbers of those who have come out to contest,” said Harare-based independent analyst Alexander Rusero, adding many have no following “beyond their small cliques and the churches they attend.”
“At best this is counterfeit democracy,” which festers confusion among the opposition while Mnangagwa enjoys the benefit of incumbency.
Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party, riven by factionalism which began as a battle over Mugabe’s succession, is also battling to stay together.

In May the party held a so-called “healing session” to appease disgruntled members who had threatened to “donate” their votes to the opposition, or stand as independents amid accusations of rigging and favoritism during primary elections.
“It’s not the number of candidates that’s worrying but the phenomenon of rebels who are insisting on standing without the blessing of their parties,” according to University of Zimbabwe’s Eldred Masunungure.
“This is going to have an impact on both Zanu-PF and the MDC Alliance.”
Some 5.6 million people are registered to vote in the election which has attracted the interest of many first-time voters desperate for change in a country ruled by Zanu-PF rule since independence from Britain in 1980.
“I was born under Zanu-PF and all I have known is poverty and suffering,” said Harare street vendor, Takudzwa Mutepeya “for us this is a vote for change.”
Mnangagwa has pledged to revive the country’s moribund economy which took a toll from years of misrule, and to mend fences with Zimbabwe’s former Western allies who severed ties over the Mugabe regime’s tainted human rights record.
Chamisa has said, if elected, he will create a $100-billion economy in a decade.

Other candidates include Mugabe’s former deputy Joice Mujuru, ex-cabinet minister Nkosana Moyo, Thokozani Khupe from a breakaway faction of the MDC, and musician and sculptor Taurai Mteki.
Businesswoman Violet Mariyacha, 61, returned home after 25 years in Britain, to join the presidential race.
“I could not continue watching my people suffering,” she told AFP. “I came to be the new face of Zimbabwe’s politics.”
Human rights activist and presidential candidate Lovemore Madhuku is in the election “to introduce an alternative voice. We are fed up with ... having two dominant parties that are simply doing nothing except fighting each other.”
Previous elections have been marred by violence, intimidation and charges of electoral fraud including stuffing of the electoral roll with phantom voters including long-deceased people.
In 2008 the then opposition leader Tsvangirai withdrew from a presidential run-off election citing the deaths of scores of his supporters.
The lead-up to the election has so far been calm. For the first time the state broadcaster covered the launch of the main opposition MDC’s manifesto live on television while police allowed a march calling for reforms including giving foreign-based citizens to right to vote without having to travel back home.