THE United States has included the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorist group on its list of terrorist organizations, a move hailed by Malacañang on Wednesday.
The US State Department and the Department of Treasury designated the Maute group and the Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik as “foreign terrorist organizations” on Tuesday, blocking US-based assets belonging to them or their supporters and barring Americans from dealing with them.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the US decision reaffirmed the belief of the government that the Maute group was aided by foreign extremists.
“This likewise recognizes the decisive action we have taken in liberating Marawi from these terrorists, which resulted in the success of the government in thwarting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the area and the containing of the rebellion from spreading to other parts of the Philippines,” Roque said.
“Terrorism, indeed, knows no borders and the inclusion of the Maute Group in the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations as an affiliate group of ISIS shows the solidarity and resolve of the international community to flush out evil forces to make the world safe and secure,” Roque added.
ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the extremist jihadist group.
On Sunday, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely bared that the terrorists responsible for the Marawi conflict could be regrouping and powering up for another offensive.
Several Australian authorities confirmed Gorely’s statement, saying they are keeping a close eye on the situation.
The conflict in Marawi erupted on May 23 last year after a joint operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to capture Isnilon Hapilon ended in a crossfire with extremists.
The next day, a black flag bearing the logo of the Islamic State was flown in the area.
Fighting lasted until October 23. Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State emir or chieftain in Southeast Asia, and Omarkhayam “Omar” Maute, the leader of the Maute group, were killed in one of the buildings in the war-torn city on October 16.
The battle left 942 terrorists, 168 soldiers and 47 civilians dead.
Defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the US move meant that it would be difficult for the terrorists to transact with American entities to finance their activities.
“As such, they will be denied access to the US financial system and will face sanctions as may be deemed appropriate, making it more difficult for them to conduct their activities in the Philippines and abroad,” he said in a statement.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines also welcomed the declaration made by US authorities.
“Specific advantage on such declaration/list is the checking of money trail, financial sources, logistics lines and conduits of terror groups in foreign countries that may have connections with local violent extremists,” Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, the military spokesman, said in a separate statement.
with DEMPSEY REYES