THE Philippine presidential palace on Thursday said security forces are verifying the reported presence of Turkish terrorists in the country.
According to Inquirer, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are looking into the information following the Turkish ambassador to Manila’s claim that the Fetullah Gulen Movement – which Turkey has identified as the terrorist group responsible for last year’s failed coup – has gained a foothold in the Philippines.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “The military is verifying the statement of Turkish Ambassador Esra Cankorur regarding the presence of Turkish terrorists, particularly the Fetullah Gulen Movement, in the Philippines.”
Abella said the government will also look into claims of the group’s purported terrorism links.
“We will investigate organisations abetting or aiding terrorism and will hold them accountable, especially those that may be working as fronts for terrorist and criminal activities, as alleged by the Ambassador,” Abella said.
“We are also working closely with all other nations to combat terrorism. This is now a global threat that can be better addressed through a unified effort,” he added.
In a recent television interview, the Turkish ambassador said the Philippines was among 50 countries in which the outlawed Fettlah Gulen Movement has branches. The movement reportedly opened two schools in Manila and another in Zamboanga.
“We consider Fetullah Gulen as a terrorist organisation and any organisation or persons linked or affiliated to that group is like sleeping cells,” Cankuror reportedly said during ANC’s Headstart.
“I am not in a position to look into the future in that way, but knowing that thinking that that’s what they did in 15 July is a reminder of what they may be doing all around the country, around the world,” she said.
The ambassador made the remarks amid the ongoing armed conflict between government troops and Islamic State-inspired militants from the Maute clan in beleaguered Marawi city in Mindanao since late May.
Yesterday, a government air strike aimed at Islamist rebels mistakenly killed two soldiers in a second deadly friendly fire accident in the bloody campaign to oust the militants from the southern city.
According to Reuters, the accident happened when a plane bombing rebel positions in the city of Marawi missed its target and knocked down buildings on to the soldiers.
“Large debris from heavily reinforced buildings accidentally hit two of our personnel,” Herrera said. “We are saddened by this unfortunate incident,” a military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, said in a statement.
He said 11 soldiers sustained minor shrapnel wounds and were recuperating in the hospital.
An air strike on Islamist rebels killed 11 government troops in May.
The Maute militants seized Marawi on May 23 and have been resisting daily assaults by government forces using aircraft and artillery.
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he needed 15 more days to defeat the militants.
More than 500 people have been killed, including 389 militants, 90 members of the security forces, and 39 civilians, since the fighting erupted. About 260,000 residents have been displaced.
Additional reporting by Reuters