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Displaced Marawi children “idolising” Islamic State-linked fighters




An evacuation centre housing civilians displaced by the fighting in Marawi. Picture via YouTube

Muslim children displaced by the conflict in Marawi are reportedly “idolising” the Islamic State (IS) affiliated terrorists who continue to hold out in the city.

As we have previously reported, experts have warned that the longer the militants hold out, the more they are likely to inspire others to radicalism, particularly by using social media to target the young.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the children would need to be “debriefed” to prevent a new generation rallying to the black flag of global jihad.

“Because they don’t understand what is happening around them so it is only right for organisations to explain to them to enlighten their young minds,” he said at a palace news briefing today (Friday, July 28).

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The troubling discovery was made by staff of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) who were organising activities for the children.

“And it was found out through their sessions that indeed yes, there are some, not all, members of the youth who idolise and say they want to be part of the enemy groups,” Padilla added.

To guide the youth, he said the Army had partnered with non-governmental organisations and other groups to conduct “psychological debriefing, stress debriefing and alternative activities”, such as sports and games.

PSC chairman William Ramirez said: “Most Filipino children consider other people heroes — sports heroes, military heroes. But here — we don’t have research, this is not scientific but it was written by our coaches when we had our children’s games for peace that some, if not many, of these displaced Marawi children consider IS-inspired fighters their heroes. Wow!”

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He also described how organisers of the games had asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up.

They answered that they wanted to be members of IS because the terror group provided them with food and paid their fathers, while they got nothing from the government, Ramirez said.

He suggested that the children’s attitude could be rooted in the Moro people’s centuries-old hatred for Spanish and American colonisers, as well as for the military and government.

More fighters arrive

Meanwhile, at least 59 people have been arrested attempting to enter the war-torn city.

In a statement, Army spokeswoman Captain Jo-ann Petinglay said the arrested people were planning to reinforce the terrorists holed-up in Marawi.

They claimed to be members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the way to Camp Jabalnur in Lanao del Sur for training prior to signing up with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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Petinglay said because there had been no prior information about such a plan, a verification was made with the MNLF which denied any links to the group and the existence of any such training.

Confiscated from those arrested were military and police uniforms.

They were flown to Manila today for further questioning while charges are prepared against them.

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