There would “never, never” be a repeat of the terrorist siege that destroyed the city of Marawi, President Duterte has vowed. The commitment is welcome as city residents pick up the pieces of their old life and the arduous task of rebuilding starts.
Besides preventing a repeat of the five-month siege, government forces now face the challenge of stopping the terrorism from spilling over into other parts of Mindanao and the rest of the country. With the deaths of Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, officials in Metro Manila are on alert for possible terrorist violence.
Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested a woman for using online messaging services to encourage Muslims in the country and overseas to join the Maute forces in Marawi. Karen Aizha Hamidon, 36, was arrested on Oct. 11 at her condominium unit in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Hamidon is accused of using social media to recruit fighters from around the world to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, carrying on the work of her first husband, a Singaporean security guard named Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek. Singapore detained Sidek in August 2015 for inciting violence and planning to join ISIS. Hamidon’s second husband was Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, the Filipino leader of the ISIS-inspired Ansar al-Khalifah who was killed by police last January.
Although Hamidon has also been accused in ISIS-inspired chat groups of being a spy, her arrest, announced yesterday, raises concerns about terrorist activities outside Marawi including Metro Manila. Al-Qaeda-linked groups such as Southeast Asian terror cell Jemaah Islamiyah or JI have been active in the Philippines even before minions of Osama bin Laden launched the horrific attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.
Since 2000, Hundreds of Filipinos have been killed in terrorist attacks from Mindanao to Metro Manila attributed to JI, the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Bombs have been set off in parks and markets, at an airport and a wharf, on buses and a ferry as well as a coach of the Light Rail Transit. The Mautes have been decapitated and severely weakened in Marawi. Now security forces must see to it that the group will stay weak.