Monday, July 3, 2017

Hapilon hiding in Marawi mosque, says defense chief

From ABS-CBN (Jul 3): Hapilon hiding in Marawi mosque, says defense chief

After the military said last week it was looking into reports that senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon had already left Marawi City, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said one of the world’s most wanted terrorists remains holed up in the besieged city.

"According to our latest information, he is still inside Marawi. He is hiding inside one of the mosques in Marawi. I think this is maybe correct,” Lorenzana said in a news briefing in Malacañang.

The defense chief said Hapilon has not returned to his home island of Basilan, according to information from the military's civilian assets.

"There were three fighters from Marawi that arrived in Basilan more than a week ago, but Isnilon was not one of them. So we still believe that he is still in Marawi," he said.

Hapilon has been designated as the point person in Southeast Asia of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He and his men backed the Maute group, led by brothers Abdullah and Omar, in laying siege to Marawi City in a supposed bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao under a caliphate in the region.

Clashes erupted in the city on May 23 after government troops attempted to arrest Hapilon, who carries a $5 million bounty on his head being offered by the US government. The Philippine government and military said while government troops failed to catch Hapilon, the operation thwarted a bigger attack by the terrorists.

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