Just a month after the liberation of Marawi City, the military fears that Islamic State-affiliated groups are recruiting new members.
Speaking at a press conference today (Wednesday, November 22) Colonel Romeo Brawner said: “We have received reports that there are recruitment activities in the areas surrounding the Lanao Lake. We are coordinating closely with the local government and also the citizens of these municipalities so they could help is in the preventing the recruitment of, especially the youth, to join terroristic activities.”
He added that the recruiters have primarily been targeting relatives of extremists slain during the five-month siege.
“The prime targets of their recruitment are the relatives of those killed in Marawi,” he said. “Second are the students and third are children. They are still recruiting child warriors.
“They may mount an attack if they succeed in regrouping, but we don’t know where.”
According to intelligence sources speaking to ABS-CBN, the terrorists have already found 200 recruits, who have started training in the mountains between Butig, Lanao Del Sur and Cotabato City.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said he had received the same information, adding that recruits were promised at least 30,000 pesos to sign up.
He urged security forces to tap barangay officials to help prevent a repeat of the 5-month-long conflict in Marawi, which left much of the city in ruins and displaced thousands.
“The military and the government have to sit down. We are trying to avoid that as it could lead to full scale guerrilla warfare, which would be more difficult compared to the battle for Marawi, were the extremists were constrained in one area.”
Menwhile, army chief of staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero said he was told that dozens of firearms had been recovered in Marawi since it was liberated from the domestic and foreign jihadis.
“I was also given information that since the liberation of Marawi, we have already recovered a total of 77 firearms together with some cadavers and right now we have also our engineers here in the area composed Army, Air Force, and Navy engineers which are also undertaking debris clearing in the affected areas,” he said.
President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi last month following killing of terror group leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Despite this, government troops have continued to engage in encounters with Maute “stragglers” continuing to hold out in the city.
At the time of “liberation”, a total of 847 terrorists, 163 government troops and at least 47 civilians had been killed.