The Maute group has been training children for combat and equipping them to use sniper weapons, photos taken by military intelligence inside the Maute training camp in Butig, Lanao del Sur show.
These children, believed to be aged 7 to 16 years old, are allegedly being used to fight government troops in Marawi City.
“Sila yung mga kinakaharap ngayon ng mga government forces
nasa Marawi City, yung mga tinrain nilang mga foreign fighters and children,” said Dr. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
"Doon sa mga fighters na nireport ng ating pamahalaan na mahigit 500, siguro mga humigit kumulang [ang] foreign fighters and children dyan, almost 50-100.”
He added that most of the child trainees are orphans.
“Tabularasa sila, kung ano ang ituro mo, unang-una yun ang paniniwalaan nila. Target nila mostly orphans, mga wala nang mga magulang,” Banlaoi said.
"Tinirain nila sa isang boarding school na Islamic school. Tinrain nila how to read and write, read the Koran, then eventually, binasahan na nila ng mga religious propaganda na aligned sa itinuturo ng ISIS. Iyon na ang pinaniwalaan nilang relihiyon then eventually tinuruan na sila to use arms and sniper weapons."
The intelligence community said these children were not only trained by local terrorists but foreign terrorists as well, especially in the use of sniper guns.
The children were also allegedly trained to wear suicide bomb jackets.
“Mga foreigners din ang nagturo sa kanila on how to use the weapons, kasi sila yung mga merong skills on how to use this,” Banlaoi said.
“Binigyan sila ng doktrina na kapag sila ay namatay sa pakikibaka, hindi lang nila sini-save ang kanilang kaluluwa, but they are also saving the souls of their whole family at yon ang motivation nila to fight.”