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Duterte says fighting against ISIS in Marawi enters ‘final stages’

Duterte seeks to boost police numbers as a further measure against terrorism.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Philipinnes’ President Rodrigo Duterte said that the 100-day confrontation between the government forces and the groups affiliated with the Islamic State terror organization (IS, banned in Russia) in the country’s southern city of Marawi was approaching its end, local media reported Wednesday.

“I do not think that the siege in Marawi would be the beginning and the end. It has begun in Sulu many years ago and the number of times that we were humiliated as a country,” Duterte said, as quoted by the Philippine Star newspaper, stressing that the counterterror operation was at “the final stages.”

Duterte also expressed an intention to increase the number of police units, aircraft and fast vessels to combat the terror threat.

“I am looking for money and I want the Philippine National Police to as soon as possible recruit and organize about five to seven battalions of [Special Action Force] trained,” Duterte specified.

The so-called Marawi siege started on May 23, when Philippine security forces stormed the city seeking to prevent two IS-affiliated groups from meeting, which sparked up a full-scale armed conflict. On May 25, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, which is often subjected to attacks by IS-linked terror groups.

In late July, the United States supplied the Philippines with two new Cessna 208B Grand Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, 1,040 rocket motors and 992 rockets for counterterrorism. In addition, Manila is expected to receive 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Washington.

Duterte has further stated that he plans to hold counter-terrorism discussions with the leaders of Indonesia and  Malaysia.

Duterte noted that he and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are waiting for word from Malaysian President Najib Razak regarding the meeting.

“Widodo and I have yet to hear from Najib. He wants us, the three of us to meet somewhere to talk about this new phenomenon of international terrorism … It seems that we are back into the stages of the old world. Like pirates, of which they are really are… They kill and they just want to destroy,” Duterte said as quoted by The Philippine Star newspaper.

In June 2016, the three Asian states launched joint maritime patrols to combat terrorism and other transnational offenses. In November 2016, they reached an agreement on launching joint army training.

The so-called Marawi siege started on May 23, when the Philippine security forces stormed the city seeking to prevent two IS-affiliated groups from meeting, which sparked up a full-scale armed conflict. On May 25, Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao, which is often subjected to attacks by IS-linked terror groups. So far, over 500 militants and 122 government forces servicemen have been killed in the Marawi battle.

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