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No need for martial law after bombing – AFP chief

MANILA, Philippines — There is no need to declare martial law following the bombing of a gymnasium in the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said yesterday.

Brawner assured the public that the AFP, in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP), is hunting down those believed to be behind the attack.

“Your armed forces is already conducting a manhunt, a massive operation to go against the perpetrators of this incident. Operations are ongoing against the Dawlah Islamiyah, the local terrorist group operating in Lanao del Sur,” he said.

Brawner stressed that there is no need to declare martial law as “your security forces are on top of the situation and as I said, we believe that they will not be able to launch another attack with the magnitude of the Marawi siege…there are only a few of them.”

He said the military is now on red alert status in Lanao del Norte and is now working at identifying and capturing the bombers, with two persons of interest so far, based on the testimonies of at least 19 witnesses interviewed by the PNP.

“Witnesses said they saw a man wearing a black jacket, wearing a black mask going inside with a bag and when he went out of the gym, he doesn’t have the bag anymore. So this is the angle that the PNP is looking into as one of the persons of interest,” Brawner told CNN Philippines yesterday.

He said claims that the Islamic State was behind the bombing is being investigated and validated, as all angles and evidence, including the signature of the bomb used, are being looked into.

Brawner said operations so far have resulted in the neutralization of the group’s sub-leader in Piagapo town and efforts are being sustained “so we are running after them and hopefully very soon, we’ll have results.”

He said his optimism comes from how the military’s commanders on the ground are also optimistic, considering the assistance of all intelligence units in the area and cooperation of the locals.

In Lanao del Sur, vigilant residents, among them moderate Islamic missionaries, are passing on to the police and military information about the backgrounds of two suspects