Duterte: ISIS leader ordered terrorist activities in PH

(CNN Philippines, June 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday attributed the ongoing crisis in Marawi City to Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Speaking to the media while visiting wounded troops in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday, the President said he'd received information from his security officials saying the ISIS leader ordered the conduct of terroristic activities in the Philippines.

"Hindi ko naman akalain na ganoon kalala kasi, now lumabas na si Bagdhadi mismo, the leader of the ISIS, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines," Duterte said.

[Translation: I did not expect it to be that bad, because now it appears al-Baghdadi himself, the leader of the ISIS, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines.]

Duterte did not provide further details on the claim. However, earlier this week, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Eduardo Año said al-Baghdadi's 2014 attack on Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city, had inspired the Abu Sayyaf and Maute leaders to replicate the incident in the Mindanao city.

"Just like what happened in Mosul, where (Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi occupied Mosul June 2014, it was also the first day of Ramadan," Año said last Friday.

Al-Baghdadi declared the start of the caliphate or Islamic State in the great mosque of Mosul in 2014 after ISIS forces occupied the city on the first day of Ramadan.

According to Año, the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups wanted to replicate Mosul in Marawi as a final step to becoming fully recognized by the international terrorist group.

READ: AFP chief: Rebels wanted to replicate Mosul in Marawi to get ISIS attention

Duterte's statements come as the government offensive against Maute forces-- referred to by the government as the Maute-ISIS group-- in Marawi approach its third week.

The clash, which began after terrorist forces stormed Marawi on May 23, has killed 191 enemy forces according to the military.

READ: 13 Marines killed in latest Marawi clashes - AFP

In a press briefing on Sunday, AFP ground commanders insisted the strategic position of the Abu Sayyaf Group and Maute fighters in fortified structures, as well as trapped civilians in the battle zone, have made it harder for the Armed Forces' combat operations.

"Considering that meron silang preparations to get the high rise buildings, medyo mahirap talaga kunin 'yung strong points," Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said.

[Translation: Considering that they have preparations to get the high rise buildings, it's really difficult to get the strong points.]

Last Friday, thirteen marine troops were killed in a fierce 14-hour gunbattle, in what may have been the most intense firefight in Marawi so far.

Galvez said they could have used tougher forces during Friday's encounter if they had not monitored the presence of at least 16 trapped residents in the combat zone.

The Armed Forces had previously hoped to liberate Marawi city by Independence Day.

READ: Military hopes to liberate Marawi by Independence Day

However, AFP Chief Ano, admitting the difficulty of the circumstances, has said clearing operations cannot be rushed so as not to endanger civilians trapped in the city.

The AFP Chief asked for patience in government clearing operations, adding they'll be able to clear Marawi in "a few more days."

"It's a matter of time before we'll be able to clear all the barangays of Marawi City," he said.