MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday called for increased public vigilance amid concerns of a possible retaliatory attack from terrorists in the wake of the “liberation” of Marawi City from Islamic State-inspired militants.
AFP spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla Jr. made this call as the government is now closer to recapturing Marawi City from the terrorist Maute Group, whose forces have almost been decimated nearly five months since the fighting began.
“‘Yung aming panawagan sa lahat, lalo na po doon sa sinasabi nating konsepto ng shared responsibility in security ay napakahalaga at napaka-importante kasi hindi talaga kakayanin ng bilang ng pulis, ng bilang ng sundalo na bantayan ang bawat sulok ng kapuluan,” Padilla said in a news conference.
“Pero kung ang bawat mamamayan ay kaparte nitong pagbabantay na ito, mas nagiging mainam.”
The military and President Rodrigo Duterte himself have warned of the possibility of a retaliatory attack from terrorists in the wake of heavy losses in Marawi City, underscored by the killing of their leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Padilla said the public must always be vigilant as the threat of a terror attack would always remain despite the group’s weakened force.
“This is our assessment. But the most dangerous thing here that may come out is their remaining network, which may consist of as few as one or two, may still impose a degree of threat in many parts of the world, not only in the Philippines,” he said.
“And you have seen things happening in Europe, Great Britain, regarding lone wolf type attacks. And these are the kind of threats that may come out," the official said.
Padilla also underscored the importance of cooperation and intelligence sharing among countries in fighting terrorism. He cited the arrest of two suspected Islamic State members in Taguig earlier this year, which was the result of cooperation among nations.
“One of those things that’s also coming out from these recent developments is that nations are wisening up, and their knowledge and understanding of the Daesh (Islamic State) and its network is increasingly becoming better,” he said.
“So this knowledge of the enemy will allow nations to deal with these forces much better than they have been dealing with them before.”
At least 1,108 people, mostly terrorists, have died since clashes erupted in the city on May 23. At least 400,000 residents in Marawi City and nearby towns were also forced to evacuate.
The siege prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law. In a speech on Thursday, the President said he would only lift martial law once the last terrorist in Mindanao has been taken out, a declaration welcomed by the AFP.
The impending recapture of Marawi City by state forces will mark another big blow to the Islamic State, which had been seeking to establish a new front in Southeast Asia amid heavy losses in the Middle East.