MILF doubts Maute can establish Islamic State 'province'

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2017 05:26 PM

MANILA - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) played down the Maute group's reported plan to establish a province in Mindanao under an ISIS caliphate, saying its days in Marawi were "numbered."

"We do not see any possibility at this point in time na mag-succeed yung pag create ng 'wilayah' (province) because there has been no caliphate established," MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim told ABS-CBN News.

Omar Maute and his brother Abdullah had been part of the MILF before they embraced violent extremism after studying in Jordan and Egypt.

After returning to the Philippines, the two asked to put up their own group under the MILF, Murad recalled.

"Sabi naman wala namang problema dahil MILF naman kayo. But then after they tried to form a group, nakita namin na iba yung kanilang mga polisiya, iba yung kanilang mga activities," he said.

(But then, after they tried to form a group, we saw that their policy was different, their activities were different.)

The brothers are now leading a group of Islamist radicals wreaking havoc in Marawi.

Neary 400 people have been killed and thousands others evacuated in more a month of intense fighting with ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists.

"Kung hindi sila pumasok dyan, hindi magkakaganyan," Murad said.

(That will not have happened if they did not enter the city.)

"Even without discussing the ideological aspect, just looking at it from the practical perspective, what good does ISIS bring? If we allow them here, what good will they bring? They will only destroy further."

NEUTRAL GROUND

Marawi had long been considered a "neutral" ground and had been spared destruction despite previous armed conflicts, the MILF leader noted.

The MILF has offered to broker talks between the government and the Maute group to help resolve the Marawi crisis.

The group earlier helped put up "peace corridors" for the rescue of civilians trapped in the gun battle.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Thursday thanked the MILF for its humanitarian assistance, but reiterated the government's position against negotiating with terrorists.

"The president has made a very clear declaration--no negotiations with terrorists, no quarters asked and no quarters given," he told ANC's Early Edition.