Lorenzana: No failure of intel in Marawi clashes
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday night denied that the security services were caught flat-footed in the clashes with IS-linked terrorist groups in Marawi City, which has so far left 3 government troops killed and 12 wounded.
In a televised press briefing from Moscow, the defense secretary said that while there was no failure of intelligence, he admitted that the services might have underestimated some intelligence information.
“Alam naman nating andyan sila eh and in fact there was this big firefight somewhere in Piagapo and sa mga mountainous area surrounding dyan. I don’t think there’s a lapse of intelligence, it’s just appreciation of the intelligence that was lacking there,” he said.
“Baka akala nila e kayang kaya but you know, there is intelligence there. It’s just the appreciation of what that intelligence means na medyo nagkamali sila,” he added.
The military said the fighting started when combined government forces on Tuesday afternoon raided a house where Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was believed to be hiding.
Hapilon, who was previously based in Basilan, reportedly left the island province a few months ago to establish a province or “wilayat” of the Islamic State in Lanao del Sur. He is also reportedly the overall leader of IS in Southeast Asia, although this is a reputation based on very little evidence.
The military has previously reported that Hapilon was badly wounded in one of its air strikes a few months back.
“We bombed them in Butig. Isnilon was there early this year and they were scattered. But it’s coming out now from the reports of the military that they have a lot of sympathizers in Marawi City, so they were able to infiltrate Marawi without the knowledge of the military,” Lorenzana said.
“If they did not see Isnilon, siguro they will not be able to have this incident because Isnilon was there, he was seeking medical attention. When he was approached in his hideout, to arrest him, they started firing out at our soldiers. That’s why we have this encounter,” he added.
The encounter has turned into a virtual siege, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte, while on his visit to Russia, to declare martial law for 60 days in the entirety of Mindanao. He is also cutting his visit short, and is now scheduled to arrive back in Manila at 5 pm on Wednesday.
The Maute group is one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and formed a loose alliance in the southern Philippines in recent years.
It has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in Davao City, the President’s hometown, last September, as well as a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao. It has, however, faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.
In April, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur’s Piagapo town. — With a report from AP
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