Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Sunday at an international security forum held in Singapore that there are about 1,200 ISIS members present in the city of Marawi, Philippines.
“I was advised last night, 1,200 ISIS in the Philippines, around 40 from Indonesia.”
In attendance at the forum from the Philippine government is Defense Undersecretary Ricardo David, who said he was not aware there were that many ISIS militants in the country, particularly in Marawi. He said that he thought it was “a lot less.”
Addressing the media, David said, “I really don’t know, my figure is about 250-400.”
Ryacudu also mentioned that aside from Indonesians, other foreigners are also in the city. David confirmed there were 40 foreign nationals known to be in the group, and eight have been already killed by Filipino soldiers.
“Our intelligence estimates that there are about 40 foreigners that fought in the Marawi incident.”
Killed foreign ISIS members were said to be from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Chechnya.
David also detailed that these foreign fighters have links to local terrorist groups and have entered the southern Philippines through the Celebes Seas close to the borders of Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia.
The Indonesian Defense Minister also called the ISIS militants “killing machines” whose only goal is to slay people.
“How can we tackle these foreign fighters? We have to be comprehensive. We have to find… complete ways but we must exercise caution, they are killing machines. Their aim is to kill other people so that’s why it’s our responsibility that we have common understanding, consensus and common proceedings on how to fight these foreign fighters.”
Also present in the three-day international forum is U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The war between the Philippine military troops and ISIS militants has been going on for two weeks now. It can be recalled that the clash between the government forces and the IS linked Maute group in Marawi broke out on May 23 after authorities tried to arrest leader Isnilon Hapilon. The ISIS group, through their news outlet AMAQ Agency, confirmed the presence of the group in the country, stating “fighters of the Islamic State launch a wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, in effect, has declared martial law in Mindanao to protect the people.
“I had to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands. It is our constitutional duty to enforce the law and provide security.”
The president said that if in case the terror spreads, he will not think twice to widen the scope of the martial law.
The president on Saturday night told the press in Cagayan De Oro that protectors of the Maute group will be arrested whether a known political figure or not, GMA News Online reports.
“In the days ahead we will arrest all of them. Number one ‘yung nag-produce ng shabu (is whoever produced shabu), nagbigay ng pera sa terorista (gave money to the terrorist), they will all be arrested, whether politicians or not.”
President Duterte also further detailed that if they find probable cause after an inquest, he would like to have them detained forever. No names have been dropped, but the president is aware of drug personalities in the city.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa acknowledged in a press conference that these drug personalities, some politicians, and the Maute group are protecting each other.
Caught in this battle between the ISIS-linked Maute group and the government forces are the local civilians. Marawi City is said to have 200,000 in population, and there are a lot still trapped in the area. In an attempt to rescue these people, a humanitarian ceasefire went into effect on Sunday at 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. PST. The four-hour truce allowed local civilians to pass through the “peace corridors” and leave the city safely.
The current death toll at Marawi City is at 177, including 120 militants.
[Featured Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]