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Threat of terrorism persists – Duterte

By GENALYN D. KABILING

The government operations against militants in Marawi City have entered the “final stages” after more than three months but the threat of terrorism still persists in the country, President Duterte said last Wednesday.

The President said he does not want to alarm the public but cautioned about the possibility of attacks by Islamic State-linked rebels in other parts of the country.

Duterte explained that such lingering security threat was the reason he wanted to recruit more soldiers and policemen and acquire modern equipment and weapons.

“We are in the final stages of… Ipadala mo na lang kaagad ‘yung ano – ipa-airlift mo na ‘yung mga pulis,” he said before an assembly of newly promoted police officials in Malacañang last Wednesday about the operations in war-torn Marawi City.

Duterte, speaking to visiting children from Marawi City last Tuesday, said the conflict in Marawi could be over in a matter of days. He explained that the operations took so long because he prevented the military from bombing mosques used as haven by the terrorists so as not to endanger the lives of the hostages.

Despite the imminent end of the Marawi conflict, the President said IS-linked rebels could launch attacks in places with dominant Muslim population like Davao and Zamboanga.

“I do not think that the siege in Marawi would be the beginning and the end,” he said.

“This is not to alarm anybody but kung nasaan ‘yan silang marami. It could be Davao which has a large population of Moro… Zamboanga could be a very tempting target and even Manila,” he added.

With the lingering security threats, the President reaffirmed his plans to recruit 20,000 Army soldiers as well five to seven battalions of Special Action Force-trained policemen.

Duterte said he also needs fast boats and precision-guided weapons to pursue terrorists and pirates. He recognized the military aid offered by the United States, China, and even Russia.

“I don’t know if Russia’s help is coming. Sinabi nila ibibigay naman nila. Nagpapasalamat rin tayo. And sa mga Chinese. And, of course, sa America. Given ‘yan eh, all these years ang tulong natin,” he said.

Duterte also said he may also meet with his counterparts from Indonesia and Malaysia to tackle moves to strengthen efforts against terrorism, piracy and other transnational crimes.

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