MANILA, Philippines – Thirty eight days of war between government forces and Islamist extremists resulted in the death of 418 people, consisting of 303 suspected terrorists, 71 government troopers, and 44 civilians, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said Thursday.
Abdullah, one the Maute brothers, is now the one leading terrorist forces, according to Herrera.
“Abdullah Maute is very visible sa area at siya ‘yong nagli-lead. He is the one leading battle positions,” he said.
But Herrera said Abdullah’s leadership wasn’t effective as terrorists wrangled over money and power — an indication that the group would eventually fall apart.
“Nakikita natin meron pa rin problema sila sa leadership. Nag-aaway sila sa pera, sa positions, in terms of decision making. Eventually they will crumble,” said Herrera.
Based on estimates by the military, around 100 people are still being held hostage by Maute and Abu Sayyaf-led forces, while around 200 to 300 Marawi residents remain trapped in the Lanao del Sur capital.
Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups want their own Islamic state that would be part of the global caliphate because they think that the Philippine government has failed in its attempts to address long-standing problems of Muslims in Mindanao.
But as the war rages on in Marawi, the groups’ method of resolving conflict and achieving justice are in no way just, based on the accounts of one of the hostages, who was able to escape from the terrorists’ clutches on Thursday, June 28.
“Pinapaluhod nila ‘yong mga hostage at saka binaril nila. Oo, nakita namin…Natakot kami sa kanila kasi kapag hindi kami sumunod sa gusto nila papatayin nila kami,” said Elvin Cielo, one of the two hostages, who managed to flee from the terrorists following an airstrike by the military in one of the remaining lairs of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf-led forces in Marawi.
[They told the hostages to kneel and then they shot them to death. Yes, we saw it…We were afraid that they would kill us if we don’t follow what they want.]
Cielo said six of his companions — both Christians and Muslims – were killed by the terrorists in front of him and the other hostages.
Because their lives were at stake, Cielo said they had no choice but to follow the orders of the terrorists, who made them work like servants, including the women they had captured and kept as sex slaves.
“(P)akukunin kami ng… pulbura ng piccolo…tapos ang mga bahay ipa-ransack, inutusan kami [They ordered us to get gunpowder from piccolo firecrackers and ransack houses],” said Cielo.
“Ginagawa nilang asawa ang iba. ‘Yong iba, nando’n lang, inaasawa nila ‘yong ibang babae do’n sa loob, ginagalaw nila ‘yong mga babae do’n sa loob [They made some women their wives. They had sexual intercourse with women inside their lairs.]
Cielo’s account of what he and the other hostages had endured in the hands of the members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups confirmed earlier reports by the military.
Last Tuesday, Herrera said there were cases wherein female hostages were “forced to marry” Maute members and become “sex slaves.”
Herrera said terrorists had also tasked hostages “to loot houses, establishments (for) ammunition, firearms, cash, (and) gold.”
“Pinipilit nila ‘yong [They forced] hostages to bring firearms, to fight government security forces because pinipilit din nila ‘yong [they also forced] hostages to [become a] Balik-Islam, revert to Islam, and were also tasked to bring wounded terrorists to mosques,” he added.