Maute recruited Marawi attackers back in 2009, says child warrior

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2017 07:41 PM

Some child warriors now allegedly in Manila

A Filipino soldier lies on a mattress at their combat position in a house as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi, July 1, 2017. Jorge Silva, Reuters

MANILA - A Maute child fighter nabbed by authorities revealed more information to ABS-CBN News on Monday, saying that the attack in Marawi had been planned for over half a decade, and that some terrorists have escaped to Manila. 

"Faisal," 17, said the Maute group started to recruit him and other members as early as 2009, when he was just 10 years old. 

"Sabi nila, sino magsama mag-jihad? Kasi lahat ng mga babae sa atin pinatay. Lahat ng mga babae nating Muslim pinatay ng mga sundalo kaya sumama ako sa kanila," he said.

Asked if the group also started storing weapons inside houses in 2009, Faisal replied: "Oo." 

Faisal was part of the logistics unit of Abdullah, one of the Maute brothers leading the group, which supplied ammunition to other terror cells, like those under Abdullah's cousin, Usman Maute.

The teenager is now under the custody of authorities and has been helping identify captured terrorists.

Faisal said he was present when Maute leaders met with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon to plan the attack.

"Nakita ko si Isnilon Hapilon, may nakalagay doon na papel na puti, may mapa ng Marawi, may nakalagay doon na triangle. Naririnig ko lang kay Isnilon Hapilon, 'Dito ako sa pinakataas ng triangle; dito naman sa kabila, dito si Abdullah; dito naman sa kabilang tulay, dito naman si Omar; dito naman sa banda, dito si Usman,'" he said. 

The terror leaders, Faisal said, handed as much sa P50,000 to new recruits, including foreigners. 

"May mga foreigners na sumasama sa kanila, Indonesia, Malaysia," he shared. 

"Ganito kahaba [ang] lamesa, may pera na ganoon kataas, tig-P1,000 lahat. Kapag may papasok sa kanila na bago, binibigyan nila ng pera, mga P50,000." 

Faisal added that some of their snipers were also foreigners as young as 13 years old. 

"May isa taga-Malaysia, ISIS talaga. Yung iba Pilipino, may bata na sniper pa, mga 14 or 13."

"'Pag magba-bark sila, sasabihin 'Allahu Akbar!' May tinamaan kapag nag-gaganoon siya. Kapag hindi n'ya sinasabi iyun, wala siyang tinatamaan." 

Faisal said their entry and encampment in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur last April was in preparation for their takeover of Marawi.

"Noong nandyan ako sa Piagapo, naririnig ko sa commander namin, sinasabi niya may papasok na giyera malapit na. Sabi namin, saan ang giyera, saan magsimula? Sabi niya, sa city," Faisal said. 

Two weeks before terrorists laid siege to Marawi on May 23, a video clip circulated among Maranaos on social media, showing Maute leaders mentioning the attack. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously admitted that the government underestimated the strength of Islamic State-inspired terrorists. He said they failed to act on leads about the attack. 

TORTURE TRAINING 

Displaced families stay at an evacuation centre outside the city, as army troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi, July 3, 2017. Jorge Silva, Reuters

Faisal also mentioned that terrorists are trained not to divulge information to authorities. 

He claimed commanders tortured recruits to test if they will succumb to military and police pressure when caught in the battlefield.

"May nakalagay sa paa namin mabigat, naka-posas kami, binababad kami sa tubig, aamin ka o hindi? 'Pag gumanoon ako na hindi, ibababad ka na naman," he said.

Asked what happens to those who fail the test, Faisal said, "Matatanggal ka sa serbisyo, lahat ng sinesuweldo sa 'yo, kukuhanin nila." 

Faisal earlier revealed that child warriors are ordered to behead targets before they can become full-fledged Maute terrorists. 

EXTREMISTS IN MANILA?

Faisal escaped with several comrades by posing as a civilian after their commander was killed in the battle for Marawi. 

He was eventually caught by authorities. The teenager, however, claimed his other co-warriors fled to different cities, including Manila.

"Nung namatay commander namin, nagtanong ako sa kasama ko anong gagawin natin. Sabi ko sa tropa ko maghiwa-hiwalay na lang tayo. 'Yung iba pumunta ng Maynila, iyung iba kung saan napunta," he said.

Faisal said all newbie fighters have already escaped on orders of the Mautes. 

He said they will now act as reservists for future attacks. 

Maute group leaders could not be reached for comment on Faisal's accounts and allegations. 

The Provincial Crisis Committee has repeatedly urged the national government to integrate the needs of young Muslims, including the development of Madrasas and Ustadz, into the national education program to prevent them from being lured by extremist ideologies. 

The fighting in Marawi has killed 507 people including 379 terrorists, 89 state troops and 39 civilians as of Sunday.