From Malaya Business Insight (Jun 16): Maute bomb-maker nabbed
A BOMB-MAKER of the local terrorist Maute Group was arrested yesterday in a safehouse in Cagayan de Oro City.
Mohammad Noaim Maute alias Abu Jadid, who was nabbed by soldiers and policemen at around 7 a.m. in Barangay Macasandig, is a cousin of Maute Group leaders Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute who led the attack on Marawi City last month.
The May 23 attack led to clashes that prompted President to place Mindanao under martial law. Operations to clear the city of Maute men are ongoing. Almost 300 people have been killed in the more than three weeks of fighting, including 206 Maute men, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.
Noaim Maute was earlier identified as a brother of Abdullah and Omar.
Most of the seven Maute brothers, including Abdullah and Omarkhayam, are believed to be in Marawi City which is about 100 km south of Cagayan de Oro. Their parents were recently arrested.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Noaim Maute was among those who attacked Marawi City on May 23 but he later fled, joining civilians who evacuated.
Maute was also involved in the beheading of two sawmill workers in Butig town in Lanao del Sur in May 2016, Padilla said.
“He is part of the network of terrorists that have been wreaking havoc in Mindanao so it (arrest) is a plus for our troops, for our police and the people of Mindanao that they have one less terrorist roaming in their midst, who may inflict harm in the communities,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command and martial law spokesman in Eastern Mindanao, said Noaim Maute was arrested by virtue of Arrest Order No. 1 issued by Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana.
Gapay said Maute is an Arabic teacher in Marawi. He said Maute initially tried to conceal his identity, using a fake student ID of the Mindanao State University under the name of Alfaiz P. Mamintal.
During investigation, Maute admitted he is Mohammad Maute and cousin of the Maute Group leaders. Maute is in the custody of the Cagayan de Oro City police.
Gapay said the Eastmincom is “expecting more arrests in the coming days as tracking and monitoring are intensified against the persons listed in the two orders of arrest issued by the martial law administrator.”
The Maute patriarch, Cayamora, was arrested at a checkpoint in Davao City on June 6, and his wife Ominta Romato “Farhana” Maute, in Lanao del Sur on June 10.
Padilla said government forces are making “headway” as they are moving to the inner areas of four Marawi barangays, portions of which are controlled by the Maute.
“Our troops are moving progressively into the interiors of enemy-held areas and this is confined to four barangays. Of 96 barangays in the city of Marawi, four remain to be problematic,” he said.
Padilla clarified that the four barangays are not under the complete control of the Maute. He said the group is holding “portions” of the barangay but could not immediately say how big.
“Our troops are making headway into the inner areas of these barangays where they continue to hole up or retreat to. The reason for these barangays being problematic areas is because of the presence of built-up buildings that are made of strong materials that can resist any kind of assault by our troops,” he said.
Padilla stressed that the military establishment is no longer setting a deadline for clearing the city of Maute members “because of the urban terrain which is becoming more complicated.”
“This has to be done in a very careful and deliberate manner so as to avoid the loss of innocent lives as well as not put in danger the lives of potential hostages that may still be in the hands of these criminals,” said Padilla.
Asked how the Maute members are able to sustain the more than three weeks of fighting, Padilla said, “They planned for this for a long time and may have laid caches of arms in certain areas that will sustain them as they move into the interiors when they make a retreat or consolidation.”
Padilla also said the Maute members were able to get hold of arms and ammunition from a jail and police installations that they raided.
“The sum of all these items is a sizeable cache that may have been sustaining them for sometime,” said Padilla.
AUSSIE JOURNALIST HIT BY STRAY BULLET
Padilla reported that an Australian journalist, Adam Harvey, a correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Network, was hit by a stray bullet from the enemy while covering the conflict near the provincial capitol yesterday morning.
“Thank God he is out danger and it’s not life threatening. He was just grazed by a stray bullet coming from the other side of the capitol where the area is still a battlefield, and he has been attended to and has been released from the clinic,” said Padilla.
In his twitter account, Harvey said: “Lucky.” He posted a picture of his x-ray showing a bullet stuck in the neck area. “Thanks everyone - I’m okay. Bullet is still in my neck but it missed everything important.”
Padilla said the stray bullet may have come from an enemy sniper.
“In the course of the fight at the other side of the capitol, there have been sniper bullets that may have strayed in the area and accidentally hit the journalist... Hopefully, we will push (the Maute) into the inner areas a little bit more and keep the battlefield further from the capitol,” said Padilla.
Padilla said the city, particularly in the four problematic areas, remains a “dangerous place” because of the presence of enemy snipers. He asked journalists covering the conflict to remain in the “safe zones.”
“Please do not violate it for your own safety and you know the reason why, as what happened this morning. Even if it was a safe zone, there are possibilities of stray bullets getting into your areas and potentially causing harm to any member of the media and we would like to avoid that,” said Padilla.
The bodies of persons killed in the Marawi conflict have yet to be recovered due because intense fighting between government forces and Maute continues.
Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the regional assembly of ARRM representing the first district of Lanao del Sur, said the report came from witnesses and trapped residents rescued from the conflict areas.
Adiong, also a spokeswoman man for the provincial crisis committee, said government and civilian volunteers could not recover the cadavers due to the continuing fighting.
“This is based on the accounts of witnesses and residents. The estimate of the bodies they saw is at least a hundred. Some of them (cadavers) are already under a state of decomposition,” said Adiong.
Adiong said there is no information if the bodies are from civilians, Maute members, or government security forces.
Adiong also said at least 233,000 persons have been displaced by the armed conflict. She said the evacuees, who are from Marawi City and nearby towns, are staying in evacuation centers or in the homes of their relatives and friends.
He said majority of the displaced residents are from Marawi City which has a population of about 200,000.
“They (evacuees from nearby towns) have nowhere to buy provisions because Marawi is the capital city of Lanao del Sur. This is where supplies come from. Because of the crisis, security measures like checkpoints have been set up, there is an economic crisis in other towns so they started to move out also,” he said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said government may set up a tent city if the number of displaced individuals in Marawi City and surrounding areas continues to increase.
NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad said there are some 66,700 displaced families (about 324,400 individuals) from Marawi City and Marantao town in Lanao del Sur.
He said 5 percent of the internally displaced persons are staying in the 79 evacuation centers while the rest are staying with friends and relatives.
He also said government has provided the evacuees some P84 million worth of assistance.