Better appreciation of intelligence could have shortened Marawi crisis – Año

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Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año shows pictures of the slain Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. (Reuters file)

MANILA, Philippines — A better appreciation of the intelligence the military was receiving might have resolved the Marawi crisis shorter than the five months it took to liberate the city from extremist gunmen, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff General Eduardo Año said.

Siguro ‘yung tinatawag nating appreciation sa intelligence information, marami nang mga dumating na (Maybe what we call appreciation of intelligence information, we were receiving so much) information but we’re busy running after terrorists in Sulu (and) Basilan, in Maguindanao, so nagkulang tayo ng (so we fell short in the) appreciation na (that) this bunch of Maute-ISIS holed somewhere in Butig and Piagapo (towns), they did the unthinkable, which is occupy Marawi, ‘yun nagkulang tayo sa (there we really lacked) appreciation,” Año said when asked if there was anything the military could have done differently.

At least 920 gunmen, including foreign combatants, and 165 military and police personnel were killed sn the fighting that broke out on May 23, sending most of Marawi’s more than 200,000 residents fleeing and prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law over Mindanao.

A full accounting of civilian casualties has still to be made.

If they had time to do so, Año also said the AFP could have prepared and deployed more troops and equipment to counter the terrorists.

Nevertheless, he said the “decisive defeat” of the Marawi gunmen would cause terrorists to think twice before attempting to occupy another city or town.