Philippine leader to meet Malaysian, Indonesian leaders over Daesh threat

Author: ELLIE ABEN | Special to Arab NewsMon, 2017-09-04 00:44ID: 1504464341290880300MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia to discuss closer counterterrorism efforts against Daesh.

“I have to talk to (Indonesian) President (Joko) Widodo. We’ve agreed that we’ll talk, the three of us, including (Prime Minister) Najib (Razak) of Malaysia. We’re just waiting for the timing,” said Duterte, raising the possibility of a joint task force to go after Daesh members.
He added that he will open his country’s borders to Malaysian and Indonesian authorities pursuing Islamist extremists.

Duterte said Daesh’s defeat in Syria will result in its members there trying to flee to places to which they have access, such as Marawi, the Muslim-majority city in the southern Philippines where government forces have been fighting members of the Daesh-inspired Maute group since May.

The crisis in Marawi have so far left more than 800 people dead and displaced thousands of residents.

Duterte said his meeting with Widodo and Razak is being worked out, with the venue either in Sabah, Malaysia, or Jakarta, Indonesia.

“To formalize an agreement, we have to meet face to face and agree on an agenda for the talks,” said Duterte. 

Meanwhile, his spokesman Ernesto Abella on Sunday said “it will only be a matter of time” before government forces “get” Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader designated emir of Daesh in Southeast Asia and one of America’s most wanted terrorists.

There are reports that Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly on Basilan Island. But Abella said such reports require “further validation by the military and various security agencies.”

If Hapilon is in Basilan, “it would mean that he chose to abandon his men as the battle of Marawi nears its final stretch,” said Abella, adding that according to recent military assessments, Hapilon is still in Marawi.

A botched joint military and police operation to serve an arrest warrant against Hapilon in May triggered the Marawi crisis. Authorities said he was in the city to join forces with Maute, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh. The Marawi crisis prompted Duterte to place the entire island of Mindanao under martial law.
Main category: World

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