ABU Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, alleged emir of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) for Southeast Asia, is reportedly hiding in a mosque in Marawi City, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.
In a press conference, Lorenzana said the government received intelligence information that Hapilon is still holed up in Marawi City, amid reports that the latter already escaped the area.
"According to our latest information, he (Hapilon) is still inside Marawi. In fact, there’s this information that we got this morning that he is still hiding in one of the mosques there in Marawi," the Defense chief said.
"I think this is maybe correct because we also have people watching his arrival in Basilan. There were three fighters that arrived in Basilan from Marawi more than a week ago. Isnilon is not one of them. We believe he's still in Marawi," he added.
It was earlier reported that Hapilon may have run away from the ongoing battle between security forces and Islamist fighters in the besieged Marawi City.
Hapilon was the target of the military offensive launched in Marawi City on May 23. The manhunt operation, however, was foiled after the government troops had been surprised by the attack of local and foreign terrorists in the city.
To secure Hapilon's arrest, the United States and the Philippine governments have offered $5-million and P10-million bounty, respectively.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella had said that Hapilon's possible escape is an indication of "cowardice" and a result of the "infighting" among members of the extremist group.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. had assured that Hapilon was incompetent to launch another terror attack outside Marawi City. (SunStar Philippines)