THE military will focus on the neutralization of Abdullah and Omar Maute and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon to prevent extremists from sowing terror and chaos in Mindanao, Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said Sunday.
The capture or killing of the three terror leaders will deal a big blow on the Islamic State-linked Maute Group and thwart its efforts to establish a “wilayat” or territory in the South, Arevalo explained.
The official admitted that the three top terrorists are still in Marawi City, where state troops have been battling members of the Maute group for more than two months.
“That will be our primary objective, to neutralize them. Well, not just the three of them but all other leaders of this terror group,” he said in an interview with reporters.
The military will also go after the foreign terrorists who are fighting alongside the Maute members, Arevalo said.
“It will be best if we will capture them during our ongoing operations in Marawi City,” he added. “It’s going to be a big blow for their supporters. Our objective is to seriously degrade their capability to repeat the same kind of atrocity or rebellion in other parts of the country.”
Arevalo said the military will also implement “other approaches” to succeed in its mission to quell terrorism and “violent extremism.”
“Radicalism and violent extremism are means to an end. These are belief and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. [The] neutralization of the terrorist leaders will deal a heavy blow on such means to attain their ends of establishing a ‘wilayat’ in this part of Asia,” he added.
So far, the military has reported that almost 700 people have been killed in Marawi — 523 terrorists, 45 civilians and 122 government troops.
Soldiers were able to clear two buildings on Saturday, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte visited troops in Marawi.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said soldiers intensified their offensives after the President’s visit.
“Troops are much more inspired following the visit of the Commander-in-chief,” Padilla told The Manila Times.