Threat of terror attack in Philippines after Marawi victory

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BALITANG PH ( MANILA ) : More than a week after Filipino forces ” liberated ” Marawi and declared victory over pro-Islamic State militants, security officials on Friday expressed concern about the possibility of threats from lone wolves according to defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong. As reported by Reuters, skirmishes continued between soldiers and holdouts from the Islamist militant group that seized a lakeside town on the southern island of Mindanao. More than 1,100 people, including 165 troops, were killed in the five-month conflict. The army remained on high alert after President Rodrigo Duterte said five cities in Mindanao were potential targets of Islamist militants after their defeat in Marawi.

On Friday, the Australian embassy issued a travel advisory, warning of “a high threat of terrorist attack” in the Philippines, including Manila, the capital. It told Australians to reconsider travel plans to eastern Mindanao and avoid its central and western regions. “Be alert to possible threats around locations that have a low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets,” it said. Military spokesman Major-General Restituto Padilla said that the advisory was similar to the one issued earlier this year. “It was only a reiteration, there is no credible threat,” he added.

Two days ago, army soldiers killed two Maute group members including Abu Talja, the alleged right-hand man of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the designated ISIS emir in the Philippines and pro-Islamic State militants in Southeast Asia, who was gunned down last month. His death hastened the collapse of the Marawi-based militant group, leading to its defeat. Two soldiers were also wounded in the encounter that took place inside the main battle area in Marawi City on Wednesday evening, according to Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao.