By Jaime Laude and John Unson
MANILA, Philippines - Some 100 foreign Islamic militants – mostly Indonesians – have slipped into the country in groups to help Maute terrorists fight government forces in Marawi City.
“They entered the country in batches through the southern backdoor,” a source told The STAR, referring to Mindanao. Some of the fighters were from the Middle East, the source added.
The foreign militants, the source said, penetrated the tight maritime security cordon around the Sulu Sea, jointly set in place by the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
He said the entry points of the foreign jihadists were Palawan, Tawi-Tawi and the Davao gulf area.
The arrival of the militants, according to the source, may have been prompted by Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s call on sympathizers around the globe to proceed to the Philippines instead of to the Middle East so they could help the besieged Maute terrorists in Marawi.
Another source revealed that the Philippines’ close coordination with Malaysian and Indonesian authorities may have limited the arrival of foreign militants.
“A series of anti-terror operations in Malaysia and Indonesia foiled the IS plot to flood Mindanao with their volunteer-fighters,” he said.
President Duterte earlier linked the Maute gunmen to the Middle East-based IS. It was one of his justifications to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.
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