Duterte bares new terror plot to attack other Mindanao cities

President Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año clench their fists in a familiar salute during yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Army Scout Rangers’ housing project in San Miguel, Bulacan.

MANILA — As the military makes its final push to liberate Marawi City, President Duterte yesterday said that Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists might simultaneously attack several other cities in Mindanao.

Mr. Duterte said IS-inspired terrorism would not go away in the next “seven to 10 years” and that they might attack next Zamboanga; Isabela, Basilan; and another city all “at the same time.”

“This terrorism inspired by (the IS) will not go in about seven to 10 years. There will be violence everywhere…They will not disappear. They will regroup anywhere and everywhere,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech at the groundbreaking of a military housing project in San Miguel, Bulacan.

“I’m warning you, the soldiers of the republic, what if they strike at five places at the same time? Zamboanga, maybe Basilan, Isabela — that is what’s coming into my office — and another major city,” he said.

“In the long run, we will prevail but initially… so just remember terrorism is a deadly movement to confront us and our children. Our children will still be affected. It will reach your retirement age so just be prepared for that,” he added.

Maute terrorists and their Abu Sayyaf rebels overran Marawi City on May 23 but, as of Monday, they are now holed up “in about a five- to seven-hectare area” with around 200 buildings, including a mosque.

“Our troops are concentrating in this area and where those more or less 200 facilities remain, which includes one mosque which we believe is likewise being used as a safe haven and as a storage area for arms, food, and whatever cache they have,” said Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But there remains still about more or less 200 buildings where the firefight is still ongoing.

Mr. Duterte said “hopefully” Marawi City would be retaken in a week’s time.

“I am very sad that we have lost a lot of men in Marawi…I said, ‘There will be no letup until the last terrorist is taken out,’” he said.

The President also said he might have to “purge” local government officials of Marawi because none of them told the national government that the terrorists had made tunnels under the city in preparation for a long military siege.

“I think I have to purge them. Nobody told us about the tunnels there. They’re like the Viet Cong,” Mr. Duterte said, referring to the Vietnamese insurgents who fought American soldiers in the 1970s.