Military still verifying identity of new Maute leader

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clarified on Tuesday, March 6, that they have yet to verify the statement of one of their officials that a certain Abu Dhar has assumed leadership over the remaining members of the Maute terror group.

“Tungkol sa binigay kong statement, kasi hindi pa naman pala official na si Abu Dhar na s’ya ‘yung pumalit kay Isnilon Hapilon as emir, parang hakahaka pa lang, hindi pa s’ya confirmed pa daw,” said 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ronaldo Suscano.

(The report that Abu Dhar has assumed as emir after the death of Isnilon Hapilon is not confirmed yet.)

“Kasi parang sa akin narinig ko lang din, hindi ko alam na hindi pa ‘yun confirmed sa level siguro, kung san level ‘yun kung sang level kino-confirm pa pala (I just heard about it. I did not know that it has not been confirmed),” he said.

Abu Dhar is a former lieutenant of Hapilon, purportedly the emir of terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Southeast Asia. Hapilon was slain in Marawi City, about five months after he and the Maute brothers went on a rampage in the Islamic city in Lanao del Sur after a military operation to arrest him failed.

This led to a five-month armed conflict in Marawi and the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao area.

Suscano said Abu Dhar was involved in the Marawi siege but was able to escape from the battle zone “with a lot of money.” The terrorist is believed to be hiding in Lanao del Sur along with other remnants of the Maute Group while trying to regain their strength.

Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Colonel Romeo Brawner said they have received the same information on Abu Dhar, but it is still being verified.

According to Suscano, the remnants of the Maute group have divided into 10 sub-groups.

“Naghiwahiwalay sila sa 10 groups. Karamihan sa kanila nagtatago majority in Lanao del Sur kung saan nagrere-train din sila (They have divided themselves into 10 groups. Most of them are hiding and re-training in Lanao del Sur),” he said.

Police on Monday, March 5, presented one of the alleged Maute sub-leaders, identified as Abdul Nasser Lomondot, who was arrested in Tondo, Manila on Saturday, March 3. (SunStar Philippines)


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