Manila, Philippines — Issues with money and logistical support are sowing divisiveness among the leaders of the terror Maute group in Marawi City, the military said Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference in Marawi city, Joint Task Force Marawi Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said the Armed Forces has been receiving reports of disagreements and death trials within the terrorist group’s ranks.
“Actually nagaaway away na ngayon yung mga leaders nila because of the issue of money, the issue of logistical support– yung leadership. Ito talaga, palagi nating nakukuha ito,” Hererra said.
[Translation: Actually, their leaders are arguing because of issues of money and logistical support. We always get these (reports).]
He added, he believes Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who military earlier said may be leading the Maute-ISIS group in the Marawi attacks, may be responsible for initiating this tension.
“Maraming death trial nga. Itong si Isnilon Hapilon, I think isa ito sa mga nagpaumpisa sa mga kaguluhan sa loob ng leadership nila,” he said.
[Translation: There are a lot of death trials. This Isnilon Hapilon, I believe he was one of those who started the divisiveness in their leadership.]
These reports come as the month-long crisis in Marawi reaches its 34th day of fighting between government forces and the terror groups.
At least 280 terrorists have died in the clash, which has also killed 69 government troops and 26 civilians.
Herrera said the divide in the leadership has seen some of the Maute slipping out of Marawi.
“Ang nakikita natin dito, talagang watak watak na sila ngayon,” he said, adding “Talagang iniwan sila dun… Kumbaga, this is a style of criminal, yun nga because of money yung nakuha nilang pera noon yung ninakaw nila, these are all the things driving them to slip away from the conflict area.”
[Translation: What we see here is they’re really divided. They were really left there… In essence, these are criminals where the money they obtained, they stole, are driving them to slip away from the conflict area.]
Military still verifying Hapilon escape
The military is also verifying claims Hapilon has escaped from Marawi.
Herrera said there are reports the Abu Sayyaf leader has not been monitored commanding troops on the ground, but added these remain for validation.
“Meron tayong proceso dito [We have a process] in terms of validation and verification of reports but we shall continue to secure the area in terms of employing our forces in possible gaps,” he said.
The Maute group has been battling government troops reportedly to protect Hapilon, who is allegedly working with the group to establish a “wilayat,” or caliphate of ISIS in Lanao del Sur.
Herrera, however, said Maute group founder Abdullah Maute is still in Marawi.
He added the military is securing all possible escape routes for terrorists in the war-torn city.
“Ito yung mga possible escape routes, nandun pa rin tayo, nakatutok pa rin in terms of our capabilities,” he said.
[Translation : These are the possible escape routes, we’re still there, we’re still focused in terms of our capabilities]
“We are employing our forces in that respective exits, entry [sic] here in Marawi city,” he added.