ASEAN defense chiefs condemn extremism in region, attack on Marawi

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An Armored Personnel Carrier and government troops march towards Mapandi bridge after 100 days of intense fighting between soldiers and extremists in Marawi City. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

MANILA – Defense ministers of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have condemned the attack by extremists in the region, particularly the siege of Marawi City in Mindanao by homegrown but ISIS-inspired terror groups led by the Maute Group in tandem with Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf.

The condemnation was embodied in a joint declaration issued by the ASEAN defense ministers after their meeting in Clark Field on Monday. On the sidelines of that meeting, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced to his peers that full-scale combat operations in Marawi have ended, and only clearing operations are ongoing to pave the way for the return of hundreds of thousands of residents and the city’s rehabilitation.

The defense ministers issued a statement “condemning in the strongest terms the attacks carried out by violent extremists across the world, particularly in Southeast Asia including the attack by the Maute Group in Marawi City, Philippines, which led to casualties, destruction of properties and displacement of people, among others.”

The defense ministers also expressed full support for the Philippines in its efforts to resolve fully the security
and humanitarian situation in Marawi, which the Maute-led terrorists attacked on May 23, 2017.

The joint declaration also said the Marawi crisis showed the critical need for “enhanced regional cooperation” among ASEAN countries, including intelligence sharing and bolstering of surveillance; as well as promoting people’s awareness of the threats from radical elements.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN defense chiefs also reminded everyone about the need to constantly and closely track the worsening tensions in the Korean Peninsula, “including the testing and launching by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of intercontinental ballistic missiles in addition to its previous nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.”

The defense chiefs said they “strongly urge the DPRK to immediately comply with its obligations arising from all the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”