Wednesday| June 7, 2017
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it had no information on the Indonesian defense minister's claim that there were about 1,200 Islamic State operatives in the Philippines.
The military made the response after Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu shared the information at a security forum in Singapore, saying 40 of the operatives were from Indonesia.
It was unclear why the information did not reach the Philippine government through official channels prior to Ryacudu's public revelation.
“The revelations of the Indonesian Defense Minister is something that came as a surprise to us because, as was mentioned by senior defense officials, in truth, we don’t have those numbers,” AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue Sunday, Ryacudu called the militants "killing machines" and urged full-scale regional cooperation against them.
"How can we tackle these foreign fighters? We have to be comprehensive," said Ryacudu, a retired general.
"We have to find... complete ways but we must exercise caution, they are killing machines. Their aim is to kill other people, so that's why it's our responsibility that we have common understanding, consensus and common proceedings on how to fight these foreign fighters," he said.
Ryacudu made the comments amid the ongoing crisis in Marawi City, now under siege from terrorists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Local terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups were reportedly backed by foreign fighters from as far as the Middle East. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier confirmed that eight foreign fighters were among terrorists so far killed in the conflict zone.
Padilla said Philippine authorities only had the information that 40 foreign fighters were aiding local terror groups, including the 8 already slain.
He said that while the government has obtained reports of foreign terrorists fighting in Philippine soil, the military was opting to withhold the figures until it has obtained proof of their presence.
“There is information available and although there are numbers indicated in those information, until such time that we have the specifics and the documents to prove it, that is the only time that we will certainly allude to them as specific numbers,” he said.
Padilla added that the Philippine government may reach out to Indonesia to check on Ryacudu’s claim.
“This needs to be subjected to inquiry on the other side, kung saan nakuha ng Indonesia,” he said.
“So we will reach out, we will inquire [on] the possible sources of this information and how they may have come across it. Because, for all we know, this may prove helpful in our campaign against all these terrorists or these criminals," Padilla said.
Continuing firefights between government troops in terrorists in Marawi City have displaced thousands of families and left at least 175 dead, including 120 terrorists, 36 state forces and 19 civilians.
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