Philippines: Militant head to leave Marawi, held by militants, if MILF intervenes

28th Jun 2017
Philippines: Militant head to leave Marawi, held by militants, if MILF intervenes

By Roy Ramos and Hader Glang

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA): Abdullah Maute, one of the brothers leading militants holed up in Marawi, is willing to leave the city if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) intervenes.

The MILF and government have been cooperating in maintaining a humanitarian and peace corridor to ferret out civilians trapped in the fighting. This effort has so far rescued nearly 200 individuals.

On Sunday, emissaries attempted to negotiate an end to the fighting and asked for the release of hostages. During an eight-hour cease-fire, the religious emissaries rescued six victims and recovered one body.

In addition, Maute said he is willing to release Father Teresito Suganob, a Catholic priest held captive since the early days of the siege in late May, in exchange for the freedom of his parents who were arrested in early June by government troops.

Officials unanimously said “it is the government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists”, following a statement by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier in June that said he would not negotiate with the Maute group.

Citing the government’s “no negotiation with the terrorists” policy, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abe Abella said anyone trying to bargain had no authority to do so. “The gravity of the actions by the terrorists and their supporters is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions,” he said.

Early in the crisis, the MILF condemned the Daesh-linked group’s occupation of Marawi and alleged atrocities the group committed.

Duterte said last June that he would not negotiate with the Maute group.

“I was asked if I could negotiate. I tell you now, kill all your hostages. I will not negotiate with you,” he was quoted as telling a crowd of police and military personnel.

Chairman of the MILF peace implementing panel, Mohagher Iqbal, said his has not received a formal request to mediate but the group has received information of the like through the media.

“It is not impossible, especially if the civilian interest is at stake. If there is a request, the MILF leadership will probably consider the idea,” Iqbal was quoted by Sunstar newspaper.

But Iqbal told Rappler, a Philippine-based online news portal, brokering a deal for Maute militants is a role MILF is cautious about.

“I think that is too much for us. The issue in Marawi, especially in relation to the Maute Group, is so sensitive. Any imbalance could mean something that is very hard to handle. We are very cautious,” Iqbal said.

He added that all MILF’s actions will always have to be coordinated with the Philippine government.

“Everything we do, especially important matters, have to be covered by terms of reference. There has to be a prior understanding or agreement with the government of the Philippines, and if possible, with the president of this country,” said Iqbal.

The Maute group is holding at least 100 hostages, including the priest and a dozen parishioners.

The military said at least that many fighters are still holed up in four villages in Marawi.

MILF, a rebel group, is under peace negotiations with the government.

The attack by Maute militants prompted Duterte to declare martial law on the entire island of Mindanao.

At least 380 people have been killed in the clashes as of Wednesday.

[Map of Philippines by US Govt/Wikimedia]

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