Wednesday, 19 July 2017
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to extend martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until the end of the year, to grant him time to crush a rebel movement inspired by the Islamic State group.
The region of 22 million people, which has a history of separatist and Marxist rebellion, was placed under military rule on 23 May after rebels from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups took over parts of Marawi City, plunging the Philippines into its biggest security crisis in years.
Insurgents have put up fierce resistance, with scores of mostly young fighters still holed up in central Marawi through 57 days of ground offensives, airstrikes and artillery bombardments, prolonging a battle the authorities say has killed 413 militants, 98 security forces and 45 civilians.
“The primary objective of the possible extension is to allow our forces to continue with their operations unhampered by deadlines and to focus more on the liberation of Marawi and its rehabilitation and rebuilding,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, reading a letter signed by Duterte.
Duterte has appointed a task force to rebuild Marawi, with a 20 billion peso budget.
The brazen assault by organised, heavily armed militants who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State has fanned fears that extremists may have radicalised and recruited more fighters than was previously thought.
The Marawi siege is the fourth battle between the Maute clan and the military over the past nine months and the country’s defence minister, Delfin Lorenzana, has admitted the combat and planning capability of the enemy has been underestimated.
While few dispute that Duterte has a serious problem on his hands, his critics have derided his declaration of martial law across all of Mindanao, an area the size of South Korea.
Martial law is a sensitive issue in the Philippines, bringing back memories of the 1970s rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of exaggerating security threats to justify harsh measures that allowed his regime to suppress dissent brutally.
The extension would be the first time since the Marcos era that martial law was renewed.
Source by: Internet