Illustrative image (Source: AFP)
 
Hanoi (VNA) – The Philippine army on February 23 warned that gunmen ousted from the southern Philippine city of Marawi months ago are yet to abandon their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia.

Colonel Romeo Brawner, commander of a Marawi-based military task force, told the media that gunmen consider Mindanao the most fertile ground to build the caliphate, adding that they have mustered a force of about 200 fighters and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces so far this year.

According to him, gunmen are leading recruitment efforts, with the recruits mostly being locals and an unspecified number of Indonesians with some capable of making bombs.

Brawner said the government’s armed forces are strengthening capacity to deal with challenges from Maute terrorist group.

The Philippine authorities imposed martial law over Mindanao last May when clashes in Marawi claimed over 1,000 lives and forced 500,000 others to evacuate.

The martial law lasted five months till government forces liberated the city in October.-VNA