Maute fighters 'showing off, seeking attention': analyst


Posted at May 24 2017 01:28 PM | Updated as of May 24 2017 03:44 PM

An armored personnel carrier belonging to government troops drives along a main highway of Pantar town, Lanao Del Norte, as it travels to reinforce Marawi City. Reuters

(UPDATED) A security analyst believes the attack on Marawi City is a move of the Maute group to "show off" and get the attention of international terror groups.

"This is a propaganda move. This is a group trying to get the attention of ISIS who are in the Middle East. I think there is nothing here we haven't seen before, frankly,” said Joseph Franco, a research fellow at the Center of Excellence for National Security examining terrorist networks in Southeast Asia.

"The reports are still sketchy, but when you look at the scale of the attack this is nothing similar to the 2013 Zamboanga siege. Its a very small group and if you see the photos online they were clearly not there to fight. They're there to show off,” he added.

Franco said that while the Maute group and all other Abu Sayyaf factions have pledged allegiance to ISIS, the terrorist group stopped short of declaring Isnilon Hapilon as its leader.

“Even ISIS is aware that these guys do not have the capability. They do not control parts of the country so it really [does] not fit into the IS model,” he said.

The clashes erupted on Tuesday afternoon when security forces raided a house where Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon was said to be hiding.

The fighting took place in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of about 200,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao, with the gunmen attacking a hospital, a school and a cathedral during the clashes.

The terrorists also took several people hostage.

In the interview, Franco said it is too early to tell if there was an "intelligence lapse or a lapse in surveillance because it was actually an AFP-PNP initiated operation."

"But of course, they probably could have prepared better to make sure the guys won't be able to reinforce," he said.

He added that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao may be too early because the Maute group's activities are no longer new in the region.

“Objectively, I think it’s too early to call for martial law. We had an incident in 2013 where you had hundreds of MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) fighters linked to Nur Misuari going over to Zamboanga City ended up razing 10,000 houses. But you don’t have martial law,” he pointed out.

He also recalled the burning and looting incident in the Ipil attack during the Ramos administration. He said then President Ramos did not declare martial law.

“So I guess if you look at historical records, I think this was too early a call,” he said.