3 Indonesians, 1 Malaysians reportedly part of 37 terror group killed: Military
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano said four foreign nationals were among the terrorists killed in the series of combat operation in Lanao del Sur that began last weekend.
“We inflicted about 37 enemy killed. 14 have been identified and 23 still unidentified, with three Indonesians and one Malaysian,” he said.
“There is also one personality by the name of Imam Bantayao or Bayabao, he is a former Moro Islamic Freedom Fighter (MILF) leader under Commander Bravo. He left and joined the Maute group,” he added.
Ano said the foreigners are members of the Jamaah Islamiyah who are also calling themselves as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inspired group.
“The Malaysian and Indonesians were there. They are still part of the JI before, they just change their names when the existence of JI has almost gone and then made other affiliations,” he said.
“It is the Maute family who took over these remnants of the JI and they call themselves the Maute group and aligned themselves with Hapilon with the hope that they will be recognized one Wilayat, or Daesh or ISIS province,” he added.
Ano said after the soldiers overran the terrorist camp in Lanao del Sur, soldiers are conducting mopping up operations to confirm if Isnilon Hapilon, one of the senior leader of Abu Sayyaf is still alive.
“We are trying actually to locate if Hapilon is still alive. We are trying to locate Hapilon and right now we don’t yet have proof of life. So this is one deliberate military offensive purely designed to degrade the capability of the Maute,” he said.
Ano said the Maute Group have dug-in positions which are “48 foxholes with good fighting positions.”
“That is why the fighting is quite heavy but we have no proof of Hapilon so far but we don’t have reports that he has gone out of Lanao,” he added.
Ano did not say what is the current strength of the Maute Group but he confirmed they monitored Arab nationals in central Mindanao.
“We will make proper assessment because before they are about 120, 130 left there so we will make really an assessment after the operations,” he said.
“We have monitored one or two Arab in the area but we cannot really confirm if they are really ISIS personalities. So far, the only personalities that came in were the Kuwaiti those who were captured last March 25 with his wife (in Taguig),” he added.
Ano said cannot yet say if the two Arab nationals monitored by the military are ISIS members. Robina Asido/DMS