MANILA, Philippines – The planned occupation of Marawi by Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group that was later found to have been captured on a cellphone camera triggered the May 23 military raid against the rebels in the Lanao del Sur capital, resulting in President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law proclamation in Mindanao and the ensuing clashes between government troops and the Islamist militants.
In a media interview late last month, Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division Commanding General Rolando Bautista said that two to three weeks before May 23, the military received reports that “local terrorist groups will seize” the Lanao del Sur capital.
Thus on May 23, Bautista ordered the raid in Barangay Basak Malutlut, which started with conducting a zoning in the village, separating residents from outsiders and checking on who were bearing firearms.
He said the military was expecting to find Maute rebels during the zoning but was surprised when it was Hapilon who showed up, causing the operation to change its focus towards capturing the high-value target, reportedly the designated ISIS emir in Southeast Asia.
The military said the May 23 raid had nipped the planned occupation of Marawi in the bud.
“Nagawa nila ‘yong ibang part ng plano nila. Naposisyon nila ‘yong mga tao nila sa ilang lugar. Pero ‘yong grand plan nila, di nila na-execute dahil 10 percent lang ng Marawi ang kontrolado nila,” said Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of the Armed Forces First Infantry Division.
[They were able to carry out parts of their plan. They were able to position their people in some areas. But they failed to execute their grand plan because they were only able to control 10 percent of Marawi.]
In the undated video, Hapilon and his group are seen discussing how they will seize the Lanao del Sur capital and Iligan City. The recording was discovered by government troops on a cellphone they had seized during the May 23 raid on a Marawi safe house where Hapilon and other rebels were allegedly hiding.
Also in the video with Hapilon and other militants are Maute Group’s top leader Abdullah Maute and his brother Omar Khayyam Maute.
Using a map and a sketch of the areas in Marawi, Hapilon and the group are seen in the video studying how they will attack the places in the city, encircling the areas they will occupy using blue pens.
The insurgents’ discussion becomes somewhat heated as they decide on whether they would let prisoners escape from the Marawi City Jail.
They are also seen in the video talking about where they will place their weapons when they start to occupy Marawi, how to attack military camps, and whether they would plant rocket-propelled grenades on the roads.
A second video, which appeared to have been documented in January 2016 and was also recovered from the May 23 raid of Hapilon’s suspected safe house, shows Abdullah Maute teaching his new recruits on how to use firearms.
WATCH THE VIDEO REPORT BY NEWS5’S KAYE IMSON: