The Mautos have a force of about 200 fighters and have launched a series of clashes with the Manila army. They recruit new soldiers, thanks to money, guns and jewels stolen from the city's banks and private houses during the Marawi siege.
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Just months after being repelled from the southern city of Marawi (Mindanao), Islamist militants are conducting a new and deadly attempt to establish a Southeast Asian Caliphate in the same region.
This is the alarm launched today by a senior officer of the Philippine Armed Forces. The 148-day Islamist occupation of the city represents the most serious security crisis for the Philippines in recent years and raises the fear that with its mountains, jungles and porous borders, the island of Mindanao can become a magnet for the fighters of the Islamic State (IS) fleeing Iraq and Syria.
Colonel Romeo Brawner declares that the guerrillas have rallied a force of about 200 fighters and faced a series of clashes with the Manila army, after the government forces retook Marawi last October. "Fighting against widespread poverty and Muslim armed uprisings seeking independence or self-government, Mindanao must improve the poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas, where many young armed men are recruited," adds the officer.
Brawner reports that the armed forces are reorganizing to face the threat of the terrorist group Maute, which occupied the "Islamic city" of the southern Philippines after promising loyalty to the Islamic State (IS). The guerrillas who escaped during the first days of the military operation in Manila to reconquer Marawi are engaged in recruiting new soldiers, thanks to the large amounts of money, guns and jewels stolen from the city's banks and private homes.
"The recruits - continues Brawner - are mostly local people, but recently an unknown number of Indonesians, some with the ability to manufacture bombs, have reached the island".
Military sources in Mindanao report that in November of last year, the Mautos murdered three merchants in the city of Piagapo, near Marawi. On 8 February, three jihadists were killed in Pantar, while three of the suspected murderers of the Piagapo businessmen were arrested in the same city last month.
Also in January, the military were engaged in armed clashes with the Maute in the cities of Masiu and Pagayawan. The recent clashes followed the alarm launched by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region about possible new Islamist uprisings. To counter jihadist danger, Duterte imposed martial law throughout the island until the end of the year. Ebrahim Murad, head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main Muslim rebel group of the Philippines, who signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014, reported three days ago on the recruitment activities of the jihadists, who "could take another Philippine city ".