Mindanao invaded by foreign terrorists - gov't

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — Foreign terrorists are trying to establish an ISIS (Islamic State) presence in Marawi City to gain a foothold in Mindanao, government officials confirmed on Friday.

In a media briefing, Solicitor General Jose Calida said government forces in Marawi are fighting armed members of local group Maute and foreign terrorists.

He said the foreign terrorists are claiming Mindanao as part of the ISIS caliphate.

"What's happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria... They want to create Mindanao as part of the caliphate," he said.

Calida added the terrorists are from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

"Our security and intelligence units have monitored ISIS and Maute literature and publications containing orders to their adherence to attack the Philippine government and established a "wilayat" or ISIS province in Mindanao," Calida said.

He added, "The dream of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to the ISIS and to its flag, is to transform Mindanao into an Islamic state or in their language Daulah Islamiyah."

Calida said ISIS declared Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as its emir or leader in the country.

He said the "festering rebellion" of the Maute is a "compelling" reason for President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martil law in Mindanao on May 23.

In the President's report justifying the declaration of martial law - submitted to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday - stated that 75 percent of Marawi City has been infiltrated by lawless armed groups composed of members of Maute and Abu Sayyaf.

AFP: We must secure all borders

In the same briefing, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson B/Gen. Restituto Padilla said foreign terrorists entered Marawi by using legitimate covers and through "porous" borders.

"We have to secure all borders," he said.

Padilla also said the foreign jihadists are helping local terrorists make explosive devices.

"There are certain foreign elements here who have been in the country for a long time aiding these terrorists in skills related to terrorism primarily bomb making," he said.

Duterte said on May 24 he might also choose to expand martial law to areas outside Mindanao, as lawless elements could escape to these areas.

Maute is a local armed group largely based in Lanao del Sur. It is led by the Maute family. The government considers Its members terrorists.

The military said government troops went to Marawi to deliver a warrant of arrest for Hapilon, who was supposedly protected by Maute. The Abu Sayyaf and Maute pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Padilla said as of Friday, 31 terrorists were killed in Marawi, six of whom were foreigners.