By Elena Aben
The radical Maute group in southern Philippines has connections with the Middle East jihadist group Islamic State, President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed on Monday, November 28.
“We are not good today because finally, finally the intelligence community advised me that ISIS has connected with a group in the Philippines called the Maute. There’s a raging war now in Lanao [del Sur],” Duterte said during the ceremonial switch-on of the 135-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Palm Concepcion Power Corp.
On Tuesday, November 29, the president is set to fly to Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur, after leading the inauguration of phase 1 of the mega drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The Maute group, which is allegedly behind the September 2 Davao City night market blast, occupied an abandoned portion of Butig, Lanao Del Sur during the weekend—prompting the military to launch an offensive.
At least 19 members of the Maute group have been killed and AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said he expects the death toll from the enemy side to increase as government forces close in on them.
Earlier, presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the president “is fully aware of the challenges on the ground“ and is taking “bold steps“ to deal with the Maute terror group.
“The Maute situation is still a developing situation in Butig. It may be good for everyone to know that the ceasefire and ad hoc joint action group which are mechanisms of the Bangsamoro peace process are now operational to deal with the ground situation,” Dureza said.
He added that Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces are helping the military in handling the developments.