Año: Abdullah Maute, Isnilon Hapilon are still in Marawi
MANILA – One of the Maute brothers is likely dead, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said Thursday.
Año said Omarkhayam Maute was most likely killed in the clashes in Marawi City but his brother, Abdullah, is still alive and is still in Marawi along with Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged Islamic State leader in Southeast Asia.
“But Omar Maute more or less mukhang patay na talaga itong si Omar Maute. Abdullah is still alive, still there, still inside Marawi,” he said.
He did not say when Omar was killed or provide proof.
The Maute brothers led hundreds of gunmen in attacking Marawi City last May 23.
Omarkhayam and Abdullah grew up with several other brothers and sisters in the southern city.
The Maute brothers’ father Cayamora Maute was an engineer and their mother Farhana Maute had furniture and used-car businesses.
Their family was part of Muslim Mindanao's elite due to their involvement in construction and property development.
In the early 2000s, the two studied in Egypt and Jordan, respectively, and became fluent in Arabic.
Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said their mother helped finance the terrorist group, recruited and encouraged radicalization of local youths.
Herrera earlier said the military was confirming reports that Omar and his brother Madie were killed in the Marawi clashes.
"There are reports that Omar and Madie were killed in the operations. We are still validating this report but there are strong indications that they [were] killed," he said in a press briefing.
President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a P5 million reward for the arrest of Omar and another Maute sibling Abdullah.
The reported death of the two extremists came following the arrest of their parents.
All seven sons of Farhana were involved the Marawi siege, according to Rommel Banlaoi, head of the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
The Maute patriarch was arrested on June 6 at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City.
Farhana Maute was apprehended on June 10 in Masiu, Lanao del Sur while trying to leave the province.
Año, meanwhile, said foreign militants have been trying to come into the Philippines and authorities are guarding against this.
"Kaya nga yun yung binabantayan natin dahil sa Mosul ngayon maganda rin yung effort ng allied dorces doon. In fact, they are forecasting in 6 months matalo nila yung ISIS doon. We expect na yung mga ma-displace doon pupunta ng Asia and because of the Marawi uprising, parang magnet itong Pilipinas so 'yun babantayan natin," he said.
Año stressed the need for closer coordination and cooperation of neighboring countries in fighting terror and noted that about 40 foreign terrorists have been monitored in the country, not all in Marawi City.
Around 20 foreign terrorists were from Indonesia, about 6 are Malaysians, and the rest are of other nationalities. Año said some have already been killed.
He said Philippine, Malaysian, and Indonesian authorities have been sharing information and intelligence.
"Normally kasi Malaysians and Indonesian ang mga nare-recruit ng ISIS because gusto nila ng isang ISIS base dito sa Southeast Asia kaya malaking factor yan," Año said.
At least eight foreign terrorists have been killed in Marawi City even as residents reported seeing "foreign-looking" fighters joining gunfights against state forces, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said earlier this month.
Lorenzana said the military has so far identified 2 Malaysians, 2 Saudis, 2 Indonesians, a Yemeni, and a Chechen as among those killed in the Marawi siege. - with reports from Agence France-Presse and Reuters