MANILA, Philippines — Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilo Hapilon, who some officials say is also the emerging “emir” of the Islamic State in the country and region, is still in Marawi contrary to reports he may have escaped the city government forces have been battling to rid of extremist gunmen since May 23.
“Hindi po ito napapatibayan. Hindi po ito totoo at naniniwala silang nandu’n pa (This has not been proven. This is not true and they believe he is still there),” Padilla, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, told a press briefing in Malacanang, referring to military officers overseeing operations in Marawi.
Authorities also released the following statistics as of Thursday evening, showing that the violence in Marawi has claimed the lives of 198 persons.
Updated statistics from the Marawi crisis. (photo by Maicel Halili, News5)At the same time, Padilla confirmed the existence of a tunnel network in Marawi that he acknowledged could have been used by members of the Maute group, with whom Hapilon has linked up.
Padilla admitted he had “no idea about the extent of the tunnel network” but said information from longtime Marawi residents indicated that it could date back to previous conflicts, citing a siege of the city in the 1970s, and may have been built by residents as a way to keep safe and escape danger.
He said the network, which runs under houses and some buildings, was discovered by troops searching for extremist arms caches and clearing booby traps.
The AFP spokesman also said authorities decided to make public the list of persons ordered arrested by the Department of National Defense “to get the assistance of the public just in case they have the knowledge of the whereabouts of these individuals and at the same time (if they) personally know them in some cases then they can assist government.”