WATCH | AFP says Marawi group not ISIS, but local terrorists seeking foreign support; cautions social media users

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APC Marawi City
Armored troop carriers move into position in tense faceoff with terrorists in Marawi City. Photograph from BNCH ABDLRSHD

MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office Chief Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo has provided more details about the fighting in Marawi City, which broke out on Tuesday.

In a video posted on the AFP’s verified Facebook account, Arevalo stressed that the armed men they were dealing with were not members of the Islamic State; rather, these were members of a local terrorist group who were trying to spread “propaganda to attract foreign terrorists’ support and recognition”.

Arevalo said the situation had stabilized.

He also called on social media users to refrain from posting “information that would tend exacerbate the situation, especially of photos and videos on the movements of our troops and on terrorist propaganda circulating through social media.”

Arevalo noted that accounts of the occupation of Amai Pakpak Hospital and the Marawi City Hall were untrue, as was a report that people had been taken hostage in the hospital.

He explained that the “sporadic firefights” that had been heard were “harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers that were conducted as diversionary tactics to divide the attention of the reinforcing AFP personnel.”

These had already been held in check, he said.

To recap, Arevalo said that according to “operating units”, soldiers, “acting on the information regarding the presence of local terrorists and their cohorts,” went to Brgy. Basak, in Malutlut, Marawi City for a law enforcement operation at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The security forces were fired upon, constraining them to retaliate,” he said.

READ HIS FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

AFP Statement and Updates on the Marawi Operations

“The situation in Marawi has stabilized.

Security forces are in full control of the situation.

The armed men we are dealing here (with) are not members of the ISIS, but members of a local terrorist group.

The news being circulated by these terrorists and their sympathizers are spurious and are meant to spread lies and disinformation. It is propaganda to attract foreign terrorists’ support and recognition.

The reported ‘eyewitness account’ is untrue that Amai Pakpak Hospital has been occupied and the people there were held hostage.

The Marawi City Hall was not occupied as was earlier reported, merely quoting ‘sources’.

The sporadic firefights heard were harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers that were conducted as diversionary tactics to divide the attention of the reinforcing AFP personnel.

But even these are already held in check.

Information from operating units states that at around 2 p.m. today, 23 May 2017, soldiers, acting on the information regarding the presence of local terrorists and their cohorts, proceeded to Brgy. Basak, Malutlut, Marawi City for a law enforcement operation.

The security forces were fired upon, constraining them to retaliate.

Follow-up operations are on-going. We cannot reveal other details so as not to compromise operational security.

Follow on forces are underway as we speak to further ensure that we will keep the grip on the situation.

Meanwhile, we fervently urge our people to refrain from posting in social media information that would tend exacerbate the situation, especially of photos and videos on the movements of our troops and on terrorist propaganda circulating through social media.

We will continue to provide updates as often as possible with due regard to the security of our operating forces and the conduct of the operations itself.”