Sunday, June 11, 2017

Indonesian militants' presence in Marawi City sparks alarm

Posted to The Star Online (Jun 12): Indonesian militants' presence in Marawi City sparks alarm

 Soldiers aboard their vehicles maneouver through a street in Marawi, in southern island of Mindanao on June 10, 2017. - AFP

Soldiers aboard their vehicles maneouver through a street in Marawi, in southern island of Mindanao on June 10, 2017. - AFP
The presence of militants from an Indonesian terror group among Maute combatants fighting in Marawi City reinforces the appeal of the southern Philippines to extremists in the region who are loyal to the Islamic (IS).

That the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) sent no fewer than 40 fighters from Indonesia to Mindanao, despite its own struggle back home, shows that it too believes victory over Philippine security forces will further its broader mission in Southeast Asia, said analysts.

IS, to which both the JAD and Maute group have pledged their allegiance, wants to expand and create its next wilayah, or state, in the region even as it loses territory in the Middle East.

"For Indonesian militants, and in the context of Southeast Asia, southern Philippines is the most ideal for that purpose," said Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute for International Peace Building think-tank last Friday.

On Sunday, the Philippine military observed a day of silence and prayer to honour 13 Marines killed in action last Friday. It was the biggest single-day loss for troops trying to retake Marawi from the Maute militants.

As clashes in Marawi head into their third week, regional security agencies have picked up intelligence that foreign fighters from places like Chechnya, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are among the Maute.

The actual size of the Maute's fighting force in Marawi is unclear, with estimates so far ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand.

IS, to which both the JAD and Maute group have pledged their allegiance, wants to expand and create its next wilayah, or state, in the region even as it loses territory in the Middle East.

But the largest groups of foreign fighters by far seem to be from Indonesia and Malaysia, which share sea borders with the Philippines.

It was reported last week that 28 Malaysians have joined the conflict.

But what raised alarm was Indonesia's National Counter-terrorism Agency chief Suhardi Alius' confirmation last Thursday that 40 Indonesians fighting in Marawi are followers of the JAD.

The group is led by Aman Abdurrahman, a jailed ideologue who ordered his followers to mount a suicide attack in Jakarta in January last year. It was also linked to several other attacks in Indonesia, including twin suicide bombings in East Jakarta on May 23, which killed three policemen.

An offshoot of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network behind the 2002 Bali bombings, the JAD is known for mounting deadly attacks, especially on the Indonesian police.

In January, the JAD was placed on a United States counter-terrorism watchlist because of its ties to IS.

Experts say its violent streak is matched by the Maute group, which was formed and named after Moro militant brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute.

Joseph Franco, a research fellow at the Singapore-based Centre of Excellence for National Security, said the brothers pledged their allegiance to IS two years ago "to project a fiercer image".

Their relentless guerrilla war across Mindanao island attracted the attention of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who knew that merging with the Maute group would lead to greater fighting capability and territorial control, he added.

The JAD may be looking to make a similar impact by joining the Maute in its battles in Marawi, noted other counter-terrorism watchers. Taufik said this also aligns with an IS edict in 2015 telling followers who cannot travel and join its struggle in the Middle East to either bear arms in the nearest conflict where its loyalists are at war, or strike at home.

The Australian newspaper on Saturday quoted an Indonesian who trained at a militant camp in Mindanao some years ago as saying that "the Marawi siege has reinvigorated Indonesian jihadists".

According to Iqbal Hussaini, who was jailed for smuggling weapons from the southern Philippines to JI terrorists in Indonesia, many of his countrymen now want to join the Maute group.

"Many are looking for the next jihad," he added. "The likelihood that Marawi will become a base for IS is very, very high."

There are also fears in Indonesia and Malaysia that citizens who fought in Marawi may return, battle-hardened with combat experience, to orchestrate attacks.

The Riau Islands police said last Friday that it was beefing up security at ports and other sea entry points to prevent incursions by militants, including those from Indonesia, being flushed out from Marawi.

This followed the Indonesian military's move last week to increase its troops and surveillance operations in areas bordering the southern Philippines, such as Kalimantan, North Maluku and Sulawesi. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Blasts rock besieged city as Philippines marks independence day

From Reuters (Jun 12): Blasts rock besieged city as Philippines marks independence day

Bomb blasts rocked Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Monday as the national flag was raised to mark independence day, almost three weeks after hundreds of Islamist militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.

Rescue workers, soldiers and firemen sang the national anthem and listened to speeches as three OV-10 attack aircraft darted through the cloudy sky, taking it in turns to drop bombs on areas where fighters are still holed up.

"To our Muslim brothers there, we want to tell them to stop their meaningless fight because we are all Muslims," Vice Provincial Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. told the gathering.

Flag ceremonies are normally performed twice a week, but this was the first in the mainly Muslim town since May 23, the first day of the siege, when the militants killed and abducted Christians, and torched a cathedral.

Almost the entire population of about 200,000 fled from the lakeside town on the Philipppines' southernmost island of Mindanao, but beyond the checkpoints fencing it off there are still some 500-1,000 civilians trapped or being held hostage.

As of Saturday the number of security forces killed in the battle for Marawi stood at 58. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed overall.

The seizure of Marawi by fighters allied to Islamic State, including some from the Middle East, has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear the ultra-radical group - on a backfoot in Iraq and Syria - is trying to set up a stronghold on Mindanao that could threaten their region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he had not expected the battle for Marawi to be as serious as it has turned out, adding it had now emerged "that Baghdadi himself, the leader of the ISIS, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines".

Duterte did not say how he knew that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose movement is commonly referred to as ISIS, had given instructions for the attack on Marawi.


Foreign Affairs Minister Allan Peter Cayetano said in an independence day speech in Manila that the militants' had planned to take over at least two or three cities in Mindanao.

Their plot was foiled because troops made a preemptive raid on Marawi to capture Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf group and Islamic State's "emir" of Southeast Asia.

"We want to coordinate very well with Indonesia and Malaysia so they won't also suffer in the hands of extremists," he said.

"But the president knew at the start of his term that, as the allies become more successful in Syria and Iraq, they (Islamic State) will be looking for a land base, and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will be a potential target to them."

 Washington said at the weekend it was providing support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to clear the militants from pockets of Marawi. Manila said this was technical assistance and there were no U.S. "boots on the ground".

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said support included aerial surveillance and targeting, electronic eavesdropping, communications assistance and training. A U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen over the town on Friday.

The cooperation between the longtime allies in the battle is significant because Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance towards Washington and has vowed to eject U.S. military trainers and advisers from his country.

The Pentagon has no permanent presence in the Philippines but for years has kept 50 to 100 special forces troops in the south of the country on rotational exercises.

Duterte said on Sunday he had not sought support from Washington to end the siege and had not been aware that U.S. special forces were assisting.

Cayetano said the government did not need to be involved in decisions on U.S. participation because of a bilateral visiting forces agreement and, with "events happening real time", such matters are left to the armed forces and defence department.

The Maute brothers: Southeast Asia's Islamist 'time bomb'

From Reuters Posted to KGFO Radio (Jun 12): The Maute brothers: Southeast Asia's Islamist 'time bomb'

 Cayamora Maute, a man who said he was the father of two brothers whose Maute group of Islamist militants led the seizure of Marawi city two

Cayamora Maute, a man who said he was the father of two brothers whose Maute group of Islamist militants led the seizure of Marawi city two

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - On his Facebook profile page Omarkhayam Romato Maute describes himself as a "Walking Time-Bomb".

When a band of militants led by Omarkhayam and one of his brothers over-ran a town in the southern Philippines on May 23, festooning its alleyways with the black banners of Islamic State, the Facebook description seemed appropriate.

Governments across Southeast Asia had been bracing for the time when Islamic State, on a back foot in Iraq and Syria, would look to establish a 'caliphate' in Southeast Asia and become a terrifying threat to the region.

"The Middle East seems a long way away but it is not. This is a problem which is amidst us," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Australian radio on Saturday as the battle to re-take Marawi neared the end of the third week, with a death toll of nearly 200. "It is a clear and present danger."

Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute grew up with several other brothers and sisters in Marawi, a Muslim-majority town in a country where over 90 percent of the population is Christian.

Marawi is, historically, the center of Islam on Mindanao, a sprawling island where violent resistance to authority has been a tradition since the era of Spanish colonialism, spurred in recent decades by poverty and the neglect of successive governments.

As teenagers in the 1990s, the brothers seemed like ordinary young men, said a neighbor of the Maute family: they studied English and the Koran, and played basketball in the streets.

"We still wonder why they fell to the Islamic State," said the neighbor, who was once an Islamist militant himself and surrendered to the government. "They are good people, religious. When someone gets to memorize the Koran, it's unlikely for them to do wrong. But this is what happened to the brothers."

In the early 2000s, Omarkhayam and Abdullah studied in Egypt and Jordan, respectively, where they became fluent in Arabic.

Omarkhayam went to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he met the daughter of a conservative Indonesian Islamic cleric. After they married, the couple returned to Indonesia. There, Omarkhayam taught at his father-in-law's school, and in 2011 he settled back in Mindanao.

It may have been then, and not when he was in the Middle East, that Omarkhayam was radicalized.

In Cairo "none of his fellow students saw him as having any radical tendencies at all, and photographs show a young man enchanted by his baby daughters and playing with the growing family by the Red Sea," Jakarta-based anti-terrorism expert Sidney Jones wrote in a 2016 report.

Little is known about Abdullah's life after he went to Jordan, and it is not clear when he returned to Lanao del Sur, the Mindanao province that includes Marawi.

Intelligence sources said there are seven brothers and one half-brother in the family, all but one of whom joined the battle for Marawi.


The Mautes were a monied family in a close-knit tribal society where respect, honor and the Koran are paramount.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said the 'Maranao' clan, to which the Mautes belong, has a matriarchal tradition, and so their mother played a central role.

He said Farhana Maute, who according to the neighbor had furniture and used-car businesses, helped finance the group, and she drove recruitment and radicalization of local youths.

On Friday, she was stopped outside Marawi in a vehicle loaded with firearms and explosives and taken into custody. It was a major blow for the militants, according to Herrera, as she had been the "heart of the Maute organization".

A day previously, the brothers' father, an engineer, was arrested in Davao City, 250 km (155 miles) away.

When the Marawi siege began, several hundred militants were involved, including men from nations as far away as Morocco and Yemen. But most of the marauders, who took civilians as human shields and torched the town cathedral, were from four local groups allied to Islamic State, and in the lead were the Maute, military officials said.

According to Jones, the Maute group has "the smartest, best-educated and most sophisticated members" of all the pro-Islamic State outfits in the Philippines.

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a local civic leader who knows some of the Maute's extended family, said the brothers rely heavily on social media to recruit young followers and spread their "rigid and authoritarian" ideology.

"The Mautes are very active online. On YouTube, they upload their ideas" she said. "They are articulate, they are educated, they are idealistic."

The Maute family's neighbor, who requested anonymity for his own safety, said the group's fighters are fearless too.

He was trapped for five days in his three-storey house last month watching the battle between the militants and the Philippines armed forces unfold, with sniper fire pinging around him and OV-10 aircraft bombing from above.

"During the bombing runs of the OV-10, they just carried on eating biscuits, not running for cover," he said.

On May 28, a group of seven fighters - he recognized Omarkhayam among them - came to his house and asked why he had not left. When he told them that he feared being caught in the crossfire, they guided him and several others to a bridge leading out of town and gave them a white cloth to wave.


The Maute group first surfaced in 2013 with a bombing of a nightclub in nearby Cagayan de Oro. Its stature has grown since then, most notably with the bombing last year of a street market in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown, Davao City.

Maute members who were captured said the Davao attack was ordered by Isnilon Hapilon of Abu Sayyaf, a group that has fought since the 1990s for an independent Islamic province but is as well known as a vicious gang of criminals and kidnappers.

Hapilon, who was last year declared by Islamic State as its 'emir' of Southeast Asia, was seen in a video that emerged last week showing the militants - including two Maute brothers - plotting to seal Marawi off as a separate enclave.

Herrera said the Mautes enjoy strong support in Marawi.

"This is their place, this is where their family is, this is where their culture is, this is where the heritage is. There is a huge sympathetic perspective towards the ... Maute," he said.

But Khana-Anuar Marabur Jr., a Marawi town councillor, said the Mautes had made enemies in the area with their radicalism.

He said he went to the brothers on the day the attack on Marawi was launched and they told him to the leave the town.

"They told me to leave because the caliphate ... had ordered it," Marabur told Reuters. "They treated me like an enemy.

I want to kill them now."

The Warzone -- The OV-10 Bronco Is Wailing On ISIS Yet Again, This Time In The Philippines

Posted to The Drive (Jun 11): The Warzone -- The OV-10 Bronco Is Wailing On ISIS Yet Again, This Time In The Philippines

Over 50 years since its first flight, the OV-10 is proving to the world once again just how relevant light air support aircraft can be.

The core of the southern Filipino city of Marawi was seized by Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants, which are directly affiliated with the Islamic State, on May 23th. Since then, Philippines armed forces have performed a a rolling counter-assault on the area in an attempt to dislodge the extremists. The Philippine Air Force's go-to weapon system for the battle? The OV-10 Bronco.

The mission has proven to be extremely difficult as the fighters clearly had been planning and preparing the area for the battle for some time before executing their blitz. Stores of supplies and ammunition are said to be scattered around the city center, and tunnels are allowing the militants to disappear and reappear in a nearly magic-like manner. The use of human shields is also widespread and Filipino Marines and special operations soldiers who are trying to go door-to-door to retake the city have suffered heavy casualties.

PAF  A PAF OV-10M Bronco.

It is thought that at least 138 militants and 58 Filipino troops have died in the fighting so far. That is in addition to at least 21 civilians deaths—likely the actual number is far higher. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the siege and the region has been placed under martial law over fears that the insurrection could morph and expand to a point that containing it could prove impossible.

Because of the dense urban area the militants seized and the very limited stockpiles of precision guided munitions in the PAF's arsenal—not to mention laser designation devices used to target them—the country's handful (as in eight airframes) of sparingly upgraded OV-10M Broncos have put their ability to make close-range and precise dumb bombing runs to work on targets in the city. Videos of the Broncos pulling off eye-watering attacks over the city have hit the web, and it's clear that as the situation has become more dire, the rugged old close air support aircraft have only stepped
up their sorties.

A Bronco released a general purpose bomb on a target in Marawi. 

This isn't the first time the Bronco has tried to buck ISIS. A pair of highly upgraded OV-10s were sent to Iraq to hunt Islamic State fighters alongside special operations forces as an experiment. The results were stunning. The Broncos and their highly trained Navy pilots were turned into flying "man hunters," slinging laser-guided rockets through windows and door openings like a sniper fires their bullets. The aircraft proved to be ridiculously reliable, easy to deploy near the front lines and vicious when it came to devouring the enemy under the most challenging combat conditions.

JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Broncos are antiques, but still very effective fighting machines. Here a Filipino Bronco pilot showing off the aircraft's cockpit in 2004.
Although the PAF OV-10s don't have anywhere near the sensor or communications suites of those sent to Iraq, they still can deliver precise fire and even drop GBU-12 laser-guided bombs if they are available and a third party is designating the target with a laser.

In addition to the OV-10s, pretty much all of the assets available to the Philippine Air Force are participating in the impromptu air campaign. AW109Es equipped with gun and rocket pods on their stub wings have been seen making attack runs and providing overhead surveillance. Even the country's new FA-50PH light fighters have flown attack missions against Islamic State positions in Marawi. 
Dropping unguided weapons among your own populous and troops is an especially high risk enterprise regardless of how accurate the aircraft is that drops them, and there have been friendly fire incidents. On May 31st, ten soldiers were killed and seven wounded in what is thought to have been an errant friendly-fire airstrike. Still, the Philippine Air Force needs to stay engaged in order to break the siege according to Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesman General Restituto Padilla: 
"Our troops clearly need to judiciously use force because of a stiffer kind of resistance from the inner enclaves of the city... We feel the pain, we feel the hurt of every member or every citizen or every resident of Marawi. But let us remember that we did not start this... It was the armed group, the Maute Daesh/ISIS-inspired group, that entered your city and wreaked havoc on it."
AP  Other assets involved with the air war over Marawi include AW109Es, U.S. Navy P-3Cs, and SF260s, but the heaviest hitting is being done by the Broncos.
The US has also joined the operation, with videos and pictures emerging of P-3C Orions flying low over the city. The Orions would be using their electro-optical payloads, which include infrared and color video capabilities, for providing overwatch, surveillance and for generating new targeting information. Filipino General Restituto Padilla has stated "We don’t have adequate surveillance equipment, so we asked the U.S. military for assistance. It’s noncombat assistance."

The vast majority of the Philippine Air Force, whose inventory is filled with logistical aircraft and aging counter-insurgency platforms, is antiquated and rudimentary by today's standards. Most all its aircraft lack modern electro-optical sensors, which can be a huge advantage for supporting military operations in urban terrain (MOUT). So even just one P-3C's presence over the battlefield gives Philippine forces a massive upgrade in situational awareness.


AP  Dense urban terrain has made routing the militants a huge challenge.
Still, America's involvement with the three week long conflict surprised the country's firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte, stating that he "never approached America" for help. And that he was "not aware of that until they arrived." Although there has been mention that there are no US "boots on the ground" in the area, this is likely untrue as there are multiple reports that US special operations forces, who historically have very close ties with their Filipino counterparts, are in fact on the ground in Marawi working in some capacity. One part of their mission is likely to operate theRQ-20 Puma drones that have been seen buzzing around over the city.

AP A PAF Bronco dropping a pair of 500lb Mk82 general purpose bombs over Marawi.
We'll keep you up to date as to how the battle against IS militants in Marawi unfolds. In the meantime, you can be assured that the OV-10 will be bringing the fight to the extremists from on high, proving once again just how valuable and effective this old but still effective asset can be, and why light attack capabilities are more relevant today than ever.

Authorities verifying authenticity of photo showing Madie Maute still alive

From GMA News (Jun 11): Authorities verifying authenticity of photo showing Madie Maute still alive

Authorities are working to verify the authenticity of a photo that purports to show Madie Maute still alive as of June 10, amid reports that he and brother Omar had been killed in clashes between government troops and terrorist forces in Marawi City.

In an exclusive photo obtained by GMA News' Jun Veneracion, Maute can be seen holding a phone which indicates that the photo was taken at 9:13 (a.m. or p.m. not specified) on June 10, 2017.

Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-ar Herrera has confirmed that Madie Maute is the person in the photo, but did not provide other details.

To recall, Herrera on Saturday said the military is still validating reports that the Maute brothers were killed in recent clashes in Marawi City.

A report on 24 Oras on Sunday also stated that authorities are not ruling out the possibility that the photo has been doctored.

The Maute brothers' parents have already been arrested by authorities: father Cayamora Macaraya Maute was nabbed at a checkpoint in Davao City, while mother Ominta Romato Maute, alias Farhana, was nabbed in Lanao del Sur.

2 NPA rebels killed in clash with army in North Cotabato

From the Sun Star (Jun 11): 2 NPA rebels killed in clash with army in North Cotabato

Two members of the New People's Army were killed following a late evening clash in a remote village in North Cotabato.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold Argamosa, 39th IB commander, said the 10 p.m. clash in the hinterlands of Barangay Malasila, Makilala, North Cotabato came after residents tipped off the military about the presence of heavily-armed rebels in the village.
Following the confirmation of the rebels' presence, soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion Alpha Company proceeded to the village but were fired upon by the rebels, triggering an hour-long firefight amid light rains.
Sensing their defeat, the rebels fled deep into the forest at the foot of Mt. Apo.
After the clearing operation, soldiers found the remains of two unidentified rebels with a gun and an improvised bomb.
Argamosa said in a phone interview that the rebels were plotting to harass an army detachment nearby or shut down portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.


Alleged rebel leader, 2 others nabbed for carrying explosives

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 11): Alleged rebel leader, 2 others nabbed for carrying explosives

AN ALLEGED communist rebel leader and his two companions who were caught carrying explosives were arrested Friday dawn, June 9, by troops under the Philippine Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.
Lieutenant Silver Belvis, spokesperson of the 39th IB, said the soldiers immediately responded to a report from the locals on the presence of armed men in their community.
They were able to arrest New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas identified as Edwin Briganio, 57, alias Alon, who is said to be the finance and logistics officer (FLO) of Sub-Regional Committee 3 under the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).
His fellow comrade named Joy Ortiz, 19, and Christian John Balatero, 21, attempted to escape but the military forces were able to capture them and they are now subjected to an investigation by the Kidapawan Philippine National Police (PNP).
Seized in their possession are documents, black uniform of Bagong Hukbong Bayan print, cash collection for the month of June, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and one hand grenade.
Briganio, was earlier arrested on January 1, 2011 in Baliok, Bago Gallera, Toril in Davao City by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force officers for robbery, homicide, and double frustrated homicide, stirring controversy for violating the ceasefire declaration between the armed communist movement and the government at that time. He was released on December 22, 2011 after posting bail.

NPA attack on mining firm plain extortion

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jun 11): Police: NPA attack on mining firm plain extortion

AUTHORITIES said that the attack of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company is a move of the New People's Army (NPA) to get rid of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who has been effective in countering their attack in Mankayan town, Benguet.

Police Regional Office–Cordillera spokesperson Caroline Lacuata said that NPA's attack is a proof of their motive to pursue their lawless purpose, contrary to their claim of protecting the people.

Last week, the NPA under the Chadli Molintas Command and the Jennifer Cariño Command claimed the explosion attack that wounded an army and a civilian at the chemical and mineral laboratory owned by Xian Jinrui Lianliungang, located at Cabatuan, Colalo, Mankayan, Benguet and Dam 5 Gate.

Initial investigation of police revealed that the armed men arrived in the area and planted some explosives. Injured during the clash were Private First Class Arthur Bag-ay, who sustained minor injury at his nape and Jerson Guisguiswoang Awini a detox operator and a resident of Paalaban, Paco, Mankayan, Benguet, who was accidentally hit by an a stray bullet on his right thigh.

The police said that NPA's campaign of the revolutionary movement against the plunder and destruction of big mining companies is a tactic to re-exploit old and unfounded issues against mining firm to seek sympathy from the public.

Lacuata said they are continuously doing investigation and information gathering to determine the identities of the assailants for their possible arrest and neutralization.

“PRO-COR assures the public that security measures are implemented to ensure the safety of all potential targets including government vital installations, power lines, private companies and threatened municipal police stations to ensure that they are adequately manned by security personnel,” Lacuata said.

The police official also appealed to the public to be vigilant at all times and are encouraged to uphold the spirit of volunteerism by providing timely information and support the various law enforcement agencies to win the war against terrorism and lawlessness.

“Let us be alert, vigilant and strongly condemn the activities of this lawless armed group, at the same time join hands with the authorities by reporting relevant and timely information to the nearest police station or thru our hotline number 09998851849, or thru our social media account,” Lacuata said

Who is Farhana Maute?

From Rappler (Jun 10): Who is Farhana Maute?

(UPDATED) According to those familiar with her, Farhana 'is as notorious' as her sons Omar and Abdullah

MOTHER. Farhana Maute is arrested and in custody.

MOTHER. Farhana Maute is arrested and in custody.

(UPDATED) – The mother of the notorious Maute brothers responsible for the siege of Marawi City may have escaped the battle zone as early as Day 3 of the clashes, said a military officer involved in the operations in Marawi.

She had an important mission. Wounded Maute fighters were brought to her care, the officer said.

Ominta Romato Maute, better known to people and to authorities as Farhana Maute, was arrested by cops at 7:15 pm on Friday, June 9, along with two wounded fighters and several unidentified females in Masiu town's barangay Koramatan.

Masiu is some 36 kilometers away from Marawi if one takes the highway. Authorities learned she was "buying vehicles and firearms in the area to be used for their escape outside Lanao del Sur province," according to a report for police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

They were about to escape on a Gray Revo vehicle when cops found them. It is not clear if there was a firefight, but the report said high-powered firearms and improvised explosive devices were recovered from them.

According to those familiar with her, Farhana "is as notorious" as her sons Omar and Abdullah.
LOGISTICS. Photos of Maute Group members and their vehicles are displayed at checkpoints. Rappler photo
LOGISTICS. Photos of Maute Group members and their vehicles are displayed at checkpoints. Rappler photo

Farhana's arrest comes 3 days after the Maute patriarch Cayamora Maute was arrested at a checkpoint in Toril, Davao City.

Both parents are believed to be recruiting soldiers for their sons' operations but Farhana has always been the bigger fish that authorities had long wanted to catch.

Farhana comes from the well-respected Romato clan in Central Mindanao. She has always been identified as the "funder" of her sons' operations and has been known to provide logistical support.

Several arrest warrants have been issued against her.

"Most terrorists' financing are handled by the wives. That is why when fighters are killed, the wives are remarried to another fighter so that the financial connections will still be active," said another military officer watching the Maute Group.

Farhana, according to President Rodrigo Duterte, wanted to speak to him but he refused.

The President said he would wait until the next generation of Mautes before talking to any member of the notorious clan.

U.S. special forces back PH troops in Marawi

From Rappler (Jun 11): U.S. special forces back PH troops in Marawi

(3rd UPDATE) Marawi-based military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera says there are 'strong indications' that Omarkhayam and Madie Maute, two leaders of the Marawi attack, were killed in separate operations

MARAWI CLASH. Using their V-300 Commando Fire Support Vehicle, the Philippine Marines patrol Barangay Saduc in Marawi City on June 6, 2017. Photo by Bbobby Lagsa/Rappler

MARAWI CLASH. Using their V-300 Commando Fire Support Vehicle, the Philippine Marines patrol Barangay Saduc in Marawi City on June 6, 2017. Photo by Bbobby Lagsa/Rappler

(3rd UPDATE) – United States special forces are providing support to the Philippine military battling to dislodge local terrorists in Marawi City, the US embassy said Saturday, June 10, as 13 Filipino marines were killed in fresh fighting.

Philippine troops are struggling to defeat hundreds of fighters, who rampaged through Marawi on May 23 flying black flags of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS or the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq), and have used civilians as human shields, bomb-proof tunnels and anti-tank weapons to fortify their positions.

The ferocious, street-to-street gunbattles with the militants on Friday, June 9, saw 13 troops killed, in a dramatic surge in the toll from the conflict, Philippine military spokesmen said. (READ: Heroes of Marawi: List of soldiers, cops killed in action)

A 15-year-old boy was also killed by a stray bullet as he took part in Friday prayers at a mosque in Marawi as the skirmishes raged outside, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) video journalist said.

It was among the heaviest fighting seen in mainly Muslim Marawi as the air force battered parts of the city with strikes to support ground troops. Some 40 marines were wounded in the gunbattles that lasted 14 hours, according to military spokesman Colonel Edgardo Arevalo.

As the conflict intensified, the US embassy in Manila said American forces were providing assistance to the Filipino troops, although it declined to give details for security reasons.

"At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces are assisting the (Philippine military) with ongoing operations in Marawi," the embassy said in a statement.

'Intense firefights'

Marawi-based military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera confirmed the US help, adding that the special forces were not fighting, but "providing technical support".

He told AFP Friday's deaths amounted to the military's biggest single-day loss in the campaign.

Herrera also said there are "strong indications" that Omarkhayam and Madie Maute, two leaders of the Marawi attack, were killed in separate operations.

But he added the military is still "validating" the report and there is no way of independently confirming it.

"There were intense firefights, house-to-house gunbattles," Herrera said at a news conference in Marawi earlier in describing Friday's gunbattles, adding that the total number of government troops killed in the conflict was 58.

Over 20 civilians have been confirmed killed due to the fighting, according to the government, but the true number is likely to be higher with authorities yet to fully assess the roughly 10% of Marawi still being held by the militants.

Tens of thousands have fled Marawi, which is the Catholic country's most important Muslim city, as the fighting ripped through residential neighborhoods, with more than 200,000 displaced people now living in precarious conditions and vulnerable to deadly health risks, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday.

About 2,000 people are also believed to still be trapped in militant-held areas as insurgents continue to entrench themselves two weeks into the conflict, which saw them take a Catholic priest hostage, open up two jails and destroy many buildings.

Herrera said security forces were struggling to contain the fighters without causing civilian casualties.

"The local terrorist groups are using the mosque, they are entrenched there. They also used civilians as human shields... we are very precise in our operations to avoid collateral damage."

President Rodrigo Duterte has said the militant attack was part of a wider plot by ISIS to establish a base in the southern region of Mindanao, and declared martial law there to quell the threat. (READ: How a military raid triggered Marawi attacks)

The announcement of US help in the embattled southern region of Mindanao comes after Duterte has sought to reduce the Philippines' reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russia.

The US Embassy said Washington would "continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues" in its statement Saturday.

The US on Monday, June 5, gave the Philippines hundreds of machine guns, pistols and grenade launchers, which a local commander said would be used in the fight against the local terrorists.

Philippine military leaders have said their troops unexpectedly interrupted plans by the fighters to take over Marawi in a spectacular event to show that ISIS had arrived in the Philippines and was intent on carving out territory.

They initially estimated there were about 100 gunmen but later said there were as many as 500, supplemented by foreign fighters from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The gunmen have also had a surprisingly large arsenal of military hardware, including rocket-propelled grenades and a so-far inexhaustible amount of ammunition.

4 captured Maute fighters dead in ambush (Photo)

From Rappler (Jun 11): 4 captured Maute fighters dead in ambush

(3rd UPDATE) Several Maute Group members are reportedly killed and a few policemen injured because of an ambush by an 'unknown group'

AMBUSH. Police escorting suspected Maute Group members are ambushed on their way from Marawi City to Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Carlo Gabuco

AMBUSH. Police escorting suspected Maute Group members are ambushed on their way from Marawi City to Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Carlo Gabuco

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – At least 4 Maute fighters died early Saturday evening, June 10, after an ambush on a police convoy that was supposed to bring them to Cagayan de Oro City.

According to a police report, the convoy was at the boundary of Balo-i and Pantar towns in the province of Lanao del Norte when they were ambushed by an "unknown group."

At least 3 policemen were reportedly injured as a result of the ambush, according to an initial report.

Four of the Maute Group members were reportedly brought to a nearby hospital for treatment, but pictures taken right after the attack show at least one dead body on a police vehicle.

A source confirmed to Rappler that the convoy was transporting Maute fighters who were arrested Thursday night, June 8, along with Farhana Maute, the mother of the Maute brothers who are among the leaders of the attack in Marawi City.

Top defense officials confirmed the same during a press conference in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday, June 11.

Farhana had been immediately moved out of Lanao del Sur last Friday, June 9.

The Marawi City attack prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, giving more leeway for warrantless arrests.

Since the clashes and the declaration of martial law, security has been tight in Marawi City and nearby towns. Military and police have set up checkpoints to closely monitor the flow of people inside and outside Marawi City and nearby areas.

Duterte on U.S. aid in Marawi: 'Nagpapasalamat na rin ako'

From Rappler (Jun 11): Duterte on U.S. aid in Marawi: 'Nagpapasalamat na rin ako'

President Rodrigo Duterte says it wasn't him who approached the United States to seek help for Philippine troops in Marawi City

"Nagpapasalamat na rin ako. Nandiyan na 'yan (I have to be thankful. It's already there)."

President Rodrigo Duterte grudgingly thanked the Americans on Sunday, June 11, for their assistance to the military in Marawi City, emphasizing that he wasn't the one who asked for their help. (READ: U.S. provides 'technical assistance' to troops in Marawi – AFP)

"I never approached any American to say, 'Tumulong kayo (Help us).' Maski wala man sila tulong. Siguro mayroon (We don't really need their help. Maybe a little)," Duterte told reporters here at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, where he pinned medals to soldiers wounded in the Marawi clashes.

The President insisted the Philippine military can handle the crisis in Marawi on its own. He looked at Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año, who nodded to his statement.

But Duterte said his quarrel was only with former US president Barack Obama, who had criticized his bloody war on drugs.

Duterte said Obama's successor Donald Trump is his "friend."

The Philippines and the US are longtime allies, bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Duterte previously threatened to repeal these treaties altogether in his bid to strengthen relations with China and Russia, his preferred allies.

In Cagayan de Oro, Duterte recognized close ties between the Philippine military and their American counterparts.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a statement on Sunday, emphasized that the US' help in Marawi is "limited to technical assistance."

"We have standing protocols which are already in place under the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board with the US under the purview of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. It does not involve any boots on the ground nor is there any direct participation in combat operations, a matter prohibited by law," Abella said.

"The fight against terrorism, however, is not only the concern of the Philippines or the United States but it is a concern of many nations around the world. The Philippines is open to assistance from other countries if they offer it," he added.

BAYAN: US role in Marawi incident questioned

Anti-US military propaganda statement posted to the BAYAN Website (May 27): US role in Marawi incident questioned

US role in Marawi incident questioned

Press Statement
May 27, 2017

Today is the 18th anniversary of the signing of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which allows the US military to conduct a broad range of activities on Philippine soil. From 1999 onward, the US has used every possible pretext such as the so-called “war on terror”, disaster response, humanitarian assistance and non-conventional threats, to justify its permanent military presence in the country. Today, it will likely use the Maute/ISIS threat to justify the presence of US troops in Mindanao and the continued holding of Balikatan war games in the Philippines. Through its proxies in the AFP, the US will use the Maute/ISIS threat to make Duterte renege on his promise of removing foreign troops from Philippine soil.

Questions now arise as to the role of the US in the Marawi incident, considering that the US maintains a military facility in Marawi City inside an AFP camp. Questions arise as to the extent of US involvement in the AFP’s push to have Martial Law declared in Mindanao, at a time when Duterte was visiting Russia, and on the eve of peace talks with the NDFP.

Did the US have prior knowledge of the movements of the ASG/Maute group in Marawi? Did the US provide the initial intelligence that moved the AFP to undertake the military operation against Isnilon Japilon, which then escalated to the conflict that engulfed Marawi? What was the US role when the fighting broke out in the entire city? What information did they provide the AFP which may have been used by Duterte to impose Martial Law?

The US will never run out of reasons to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to advance its imperialist agenda in the region. We must continue to expose the US hand in the conflicts in this part of the world, at a time when contradictions in a multipolar world are intensifying and resistance to imperialism in advancing. We must expose and oppose the militarist and fascist agenda of the pro-US ultra-Right. This includes the further justifying US military intervention and sabotaging the peace talks with the NDFP.

BAYAN: On US military intervention in Marawi

Anti-US military propaganda statement posted to the BAYAN Website (Jun 11): On US military intervention in Marawi

On US military intervention in Marawi

Press Statement
June 11, 2017
Reference: Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general

We oppose US meddling and intervention in the Marawi crisis. The US still has a lot to answer for when it comes to the people of Mindanao. No less than Pres. Duterte explained this before. However, their participation in the conflict contradicts Duterte’s earlier pronouncements on an independent foreign policy.

Here are 5 questions on the US role in Marawi:

1. Did the US provide the intel on Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group which was used by the AFP in conducting the botched arrest that sparked the Marawi crisis?

2. Did the US urge the AFP to carry out the arreest of Hapilon at the exact time Duterte was in Russia, with the knowledge that things may get out of hand and affect Duterte’s Russia trip?

3. If the US used ISIS against the Assad regime in Syria, what makes the US effective against an ISIS-inspired group in the Philippines?

4. Prior to the crisis, what role did the US troops in Marawi City play?

5. Did President Duterte formally request US intervention in the Marawi crisis?

The Duterte regime has backtracked on its vow to remove foreign troops from PH soil and has now allowed foreign intervention in a domestic issue. There will be serious repercussions.

5 questions from BAYAN on ‘US military intervention’ in Marawi

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): 5 questions from BAYAN on ‘US military intervention’ in Marawi

A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance aircraft is seen flying over the town of Marawi city, as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the city, Philippines June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The sudden presence of US forces in Marawi, site of a nearly three-week siege by terrorist forces, reverses President Rodrigo Duterte’s avowed independent foreign policy, and raises serious questions about America’s role in the crisis, militant groups said Sunday.

BAYAN itself listed five key questions on what it deemed a troublesome development.

“We oppose US meddling and intervention in the Marawi crisis,” Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general, said in a statement, referring to reports Saturday that US Special Forces have joined the battle to crush an estimated 200 more Islamist militants led by the Maute Group which is engaging the government troops in intense urban fighting.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines had said the United States was providing technical assistance to end the siege of Marawi City but added it had no troops on the ground.

“They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera was quoted by Reuters telling a news conference in Marawi City.

The US embassy confirmed it had offered support, at the request of the Philippine government, but gave no details.

A US P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday, media said.

In BAYAN’s statement, Reyes Jr said, “The US still has a lot to answer for when it comes to the people of Mindanao. No less than President Duterte explained this before. However, their participation in the conflict contradicts Duterte’s earlier pronouncements on an independent foreign policy.

BAYAN ticked off 5 questions on the US role in Marawi:

1. Did the US provide the intel on Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group which was used by the AFP in conducting the botched arrest that sparked the Marawi crisis?

2. Did the US urge the AFP to carry out the arreest of Hapilon at the exact time Duterte was in Russia, with the knowledge that things may get out of hand and affect Duterte’s Russia trip?

3. If the US used ISIS against the Assad regime in Syria, what makes the US effective against an ISIS-inspired group in the Philippines?

4. Prior to the crisis, what role did the US troops in Marawi City play?

5. Did President Duterte formally request US intervention in the Marawi crisis?

BAYAN lamented that “the Duterte regime has backtracked on its vow to remove foreign troops from Philippine soil and has now allowed foreign intervention in a domestic issue,” adding, “There will be serious repercussions.”

Military casualties in ISIS fighting mounting in Philippines, matriarch of militant leaders captured (Photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 10): Military casualties in ISIS fighting mounting in Philippines, matriarch of militant leaders captured

police search


Maute Mother

Maute 1

Police and military photos pass on the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show Ominta Maute and one of the two injured ISIS fighter and several women captured in Lanao del Sur province. (Mindanao Examiner)

Police and military photos pass on the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show Ominta Maute and one of the two injured ISIS fighter and several women captured in Lanao del Sur province. (Mindanao Examiner)

Farhana with other women

Military casualties in ISIS fighting continue to increase as security officials announced the death of over a dozen soldiers in the battle for Marawi City in southern Philippines.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, an army spokesman, said at least 13 marines were killed in Friday’s fighting with militants who occupied much of the city since May 23. Herrera did not say how many more soldiers were wounded in house-to-house fighting, but other reports claimed at least four dozen had been injured.

Among the slain soldier was Lt. Frederick Savellana, whose unit recently overran and an encampment of the local ISIS group and recovered over P76 million in cash and cheques. The soldiers were killed after militants fired anti-tank rockets and grenade as the marines were advancing to retake a village near the heart of the city where enemy snipers had been positioned.

The military’s death toll is now nearly five dozens with many more injured since day one of the fierce clashes that officials claimed also killed over a hundred militants, although only 42 bodies had been recovered so far. More than two dozen civilians also perished in the violence that affected over 200,000 Muslims now in different evacuation centers in Iligan City and Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

Officials also announced the capture of Ominta Maute, also known by her other name as Farhana, the mother of the leaders of the local ISIS and the clan’s matriarch. She was captured in Lanao del Sur’s Masiu town along with 2 wounded militants who escaped military operations in Marawi, and 7 other women believed to be members of the Maute group while attempting to flee the province.

Security forces also recovered weapons and explosives from the matriarch, who is facing rebellion charges.

Just recently, the clan’s patriarch Cayamora Maute, was also arrested at a military checkpoint together with another wife and daughter, and a man in a rented van while trying to enter Davao City and police said a pistol and grenade were also recovered in the vehicle.

Also arrested in separate military operations were former Marawi mayor Fahad Salic and Cotabato City engineer Nasser Dilangalen who were both accused of supporting the local ISIS fighters.

Ambush kills 4 captured ISIS fighters in Lanao Norte

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 11): Ambush kills 4 captured ISIS fighters in Lanao Norte

Unidentified gunmen allegedly ambushed a police vehicle transporting four prisoners who ISIS fighters captured in Lanao del Norte province in southern Philippines, reports said Sunday.

It said the attack, which occurred late Saturday, also left one police officer injured near the town of Baloi. The prisoners were being transported to Cagayan de Oro City for interrogation when gunmen attacked their vehicle. Three of those killed were identified as Julkipli Maute, Ala Saba and Alan Sulayman.

It was unknown why police decided to bring the prisoners at night despite intense fighting in nearby Marawi where ISIS fighters who are members of the Maute group occupied the city on May 23.

The four prisoners allegedly took part in the siege, however, it was unclear how they managed to escape from a massive military assault that flattened many structures in Marawi.

U.S. Special Forces were also deployed near the city to assist local troops in fighting ISIS after Manila sought assistance from Washington. The local ISIS is still holding at least 240 civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest Chito Suganob.

The U.S. Embassy did not give details as to the extent of the involvement of American soldiers in the fighting, but a P3 Orion spy plane was also spotted flying over the city. A group of Americans in civilian clothes was seen by journalists in the area, although it was not immediately known whether they are soldiers or military contractors.

NPA ambush leaves 10 military casualties in Davao City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 11): NPA ambush leaves 10 military casualties in Davao City

Communist rebels ambushed a group of soldiers on Sunday and killing two of them in Davao City, an army spokesman said, adding, six more were wounded in the attack.

The soldiers, all from the 16th Infantry Battalion, were responding to the presence of New People’s Army rebels in the village called Paradise Embac in Paquibato District when they came under fire.

Major Ezra Balagtey, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the attack sparked a firefight. He said troops recovered one automatic rifle, two jungle bags and a roll of electrical wire left behind by the rebels. It was unknown if there were casualties on the enemy side.

“The troops were responding to a reported consolidation of NPAs planning to conduct atrocities in Paquibato District when they were fired upon that led to the intense exchange. Initially two soldiers were killed and six were wounded. They were all evacuated for medical attention,” he said.

The fighting occurred a day after army soldiers killed a rebel commander, Lupe Gamay, and his aide Raden Joshua, in a clash in the village of Malasila in North Cotabato’s Makilala town. Soldiers also recovered improvised explosives and a .45-caliber pistol from Gamay, believed to be a bomb expert.

The military earlier said that troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion arrested 3 alleged NPA rebels – Rudy Antiola, 57, Joy Ortiz, 19, and Christian John Balatero, 21 – in Kidapawan City, also in North Cotabato.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA which is currently negotiating peace with Manila. The rebels are fighting for a separate Maoist state in the country.

No go signal yet for Marawi IDPs to go home, says Army official

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 11): No go signal yet for Marawi IDPs to go home, says Army official

The government troops have not yet given a go signal for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to go back to Marawi City, according to Col. Cerilo Thomas Donato, assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division.

In a press briefing held at the Regional Command and Coordination Center (RCCC) at Frosty Bites, in Barangay Tubod here, Col. Donato said: “We have received requests to allow the IDPs to return to Marawi, but nothing has been given a nod.”

Firefight between the Maute terror group and the government troops has been going on at the town proper of Marawi City. A few stray bullets from the enemies also landed at nearby Campo Ranao of the 103rd Brigade.

In a related development, Assistant Secretary Demosthenes Santillan of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) assured that the government has enough relief goods for the IDPs.

“Our agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) as well as civil society organizations (CSOs) are prompt in responding to the needs of the IDPs,” Santillan said.

Presently, the responding agencies are catering to some 59,993 affected families with 268,524 dependents. Thousands fled Marawi City when clashes between Maute group and government forces broke out last May 23.

Gov't forces pushing hard to combat Maute group in Marawi

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 11): Gov't forces pushing hard to combat Maute group in Marawi

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said they are pushing hard to combat the Maute group in Marawi City.

This is a different kind of warfare. There are still a lot of civilians trapped inside the city,” he said in press briefing held today in Cagayan de Oro City.

Año emphasized that they wanted to spare the lives of the trapped civilians and minimize the destruction of properties,"

He gave assurance that the government has enough forces to fight the local terrorists.

They have been isolated in four barangays and we have sealed off their exit. We will be able to clear all barangays of Marawi, we are doing it deliberately and carefully, he further said.

National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, said the arrest of the matriarch and patriarch of the Maute group has a huge impact saying it would help the government in putting an end to the armed conflict.

The matriarch, Onita Romato Maute a.k.a. Farhana, was apprehended at a safe house in Barangay Kormatan, Masiu, Lanao Del Sur on June 9 while the patriarch, Cayamora Maute, was recently arrested in a checkpoint in Davao City.

Lorenzana also disclosed that the number of terrorists in Marawi City has diminished with 191 confirmed dead.

One hundred fifty four (154) firearms were also seized by the government forces.

Meanwhile, local chief executives in Lanao del Sur met today and discussed measures to prevent lawless elements from penetrating other parts of the province which include strengthening of barangay peace action teams.

Lorenzana said he supports the idea. "Matapos ang gulo, we are going to organize them properly, train them, and give them firearms - to be controlled by the military, and they will be serving their towns and barangays" he said.

He also emphasized that they will carefully vet the people to ensure that they will not be giving arms to Maute supporters.

3 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): 3 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Basilan

Relentless military offensive have forced three members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to surrender to the government authorities in the province of Basilan, a military official announced Friday.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Andrew Bacala, Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion commander, said the three ASG members who surrendered Thursday afternoon were followers of bandit sub-leader Nurhassan Jamiri.

Bacala identified them as follows: Adulla Kalitut, 35; Natim Alamin, 25; and, Adzmil Alamin, 20. They yielded an M-16 Armalite and two caliber .30 M1 Garand rifles as well as several rounds of ammunition.

Bacala revealed that Kalitut is listed as number four in Nurhassan Jamiri's group and a PhP600,000 cash reward has been set for his arrest.

Kalitut said they decided to surrender “after experiencing hardship brought about by the sustained military offensives conducted by the government troops.”

“We are always on the run from the military. We do not have decent sleep or food. We are tired. We missed our families. We miss having a normal life,” Kalitut said.

Kalitut said he was enticed to join the ASG by the money promised him by the bandit group.

“I need to feed my family. Even before I become an ASG member, I find it hard to earn a living outside our municipality since I am immediately discriminated and labeled as a terrorist. My family is starving. I have to feed them. I am left with little choice,” He added.

The Joint Task Force Basilan has worked tirelessly to ride the province of the ASG’s influence since the start of the intensified military operations.

In August last year, government troops flushed the bandits from their strongholds in the municipalities of Albarka and Tipo-Tipo.

To date, 71 ASG members have surrendered in Basilan province.

The Joint Task Force Basilan is pioneering a framework on the rehabilitation of ASG members, who surrendered.

GRP, MILF craft communication roadmap

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): GRP, MILF craft communication roadmap

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are working to come up with a single communication roadmap to ensure the public fully understands the Bangsamoro peace process.

In a statement, the chair of the implementing panels of the government and the MILF said they met, along with communications specialists in Davao City from June 7 to 8 “to work jointly on a common communication plan.”

Irene Santiago, government implementing panel chairperson, said it is important that the public support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in order to begin the full implementation of the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF implementing panel, described the fresh effort as “complementation of the implementation” process of the peace agreement that the two parties have forged.

“There is a lot of opportunity here. The two parties have come together to work on a plan to convey their messages to the public effectively,” he pointed out.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, who provided his insights on the programs of the Duterte administration to the joint panels during the meeting, said there is a need for a healthy public discourse on the Bangsamoro peace process.
Abella provided insights on the programs of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to the joint panels during the meeting.

“The joint communications planning of the government and the MILF is very important so that our messages are aligned,” Abella said.

“There is a pressing need to provide accurate information about the draft law when it is submitted to Congress for the public to understand it and support it,” he added.

Abella said President Duterte, who is from Mindanao, is serious in advancing the Bangsamoro peace process.

President Duterte has vowed to honor all Bangsamoro peace agreements signed by previous administrations.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has created a Peace and Development Roadmap to address the political clamor of the insurgent groups in the country.

Under the government peace roadmap for the Bangsamoro, it is planned that all peace agreements with the Bangsamoro will be harmonized into the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Once approved, the BBL would establish a new political entity, replacing the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Maute mom nabbed, tries to escape

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): Maute mom nabbed, tries to escape

The matriarch of the notorious Maute group was arrested in Lanao del Sur town late Friday afternoon as she and her other women companions were trying to sneak out of the province, police said Saturday.

Police identified the Maute matriach as Orminta Romato Maute, who also goes by the name “Farhana.”

Farhana was captured in Barangay Tamboro Cormatan in Masiu, Lanao del Sur with seven other women, said Police Chief Supt. Rueben Sindac, regional police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Reports indicated Farhana’s group was with two wounded individuals believed to be Maute combatants, but police could not verify this information as of this writing.

Seized from Farhana and her companions, who were on board a Toyota Revo when they were arrested, were assorted firearms and ammunitions, Sindac said.

It was learned that law enforcers had been tracking down Farhana who was reportedly purchasing vehicles and weapons as they were planning their exit out of Lanao del Sur.

Farhana is reported to be actively helping his two sons, Abdullah and Omarkhayyam, in their operations. The Maute Group are fighting the government forces in Marawi City since May 23 when law enforcers tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a known Abu Sayyaf leader.

Their father, Cayamora Maute, was also arrested at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Davao City, on June 7.

The Marawi siege has already displaced thousands of residents fleeing the fighting and has caused the deaths of dozens of soldiers, insurgents, and civilians.

The military said it is expected to neutralize the Maute group, whose members have been occupying certain areas in Marawi’s downtown district, on Monday, June 12, in time for the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day.

The Maute Group has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based terrorist organization the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, an adult female who shares the Maute surname, was held by authorities for questioning in Cagayan de Oro Friday night but was later released.

Chief Inspector Ariel Philip Pontillas, chief of the city police’s intelligence unit, said the woman who identified herself as a teacher at a school Marawi, had checked in at a hotel in that city.

Insp. Pontillas said it was the hotel management who informed them of a guest surnamed Maute.

“After a thorough verification and coordination from the intelligence community, we found out she has no involvement in the Maute Group. She was cleared,” Pontillas said in an interview Saturday.

The teacher was on her way to Surigao to be with her husband and stayed the night in Cagayan de Oro before proceeding there, police said.