WATCH | Marawi crisis: Maute child warriors go through a gruesome initiation

July 10, 2017 - 10:32 PM
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Marawi child warrior
A confessed child warrior from the Marawi armed standoff reveals details of his experience with the jihadist Maute Group.

Recovered by the military in clearing operations is a mobile phone video showing a child, clutching a rifle as he trudges from ravaged house to ravaged house in the ravaged Islamic City of Marawi, carrying out errands for his jihadist Maute handlers the way child warriors are commanded to do.


Before they are deemed to have passed the training, the child warriors have one assignment before formally getting accepted as a brother: Bring back a Christian’s head, to prove your worth as ad-Dawla al-Islamiya, a term that the jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also ISIS) has referred to itself since June 2014.


 
There is another mobile phone image showing still one more child warrior, who a military source has tagged as one of the snipers battling the military at Ground Zero in the ongoing campaign to retake Marawi, once home to more than 200,000 largely Maranaos but now a veritable ghost town, from the extremists.

In our exclusive story here, a spry young male barely in his teens, let’s call him Benjie, shares his story before the News5 camera, the youthful innocence on his face hardly betraying the kind of brutal initiation that, he claims, he has had to undergo after being recruited into the militant extremist militant Maute Group, in thee process forfeiting a large part of his childhood.

At the age of 12, “Benjie” narrated, he was befriended by foreigners he met in 2009 during worship. He was recruited to join a militant army; “may sweldo pa (You get paid a salary).”

For a budding juvenile like Benjie, the two-month boot camp was no child’s play, however.

You rise at 5 a.m. to pray, then learn Arabic, then plow into combat training.

One and only one thing has been drilled into them: In case of capture, never ever admit or confess – “whatever they do to you.”

And, before they are deemed to have passed the training, they have one last assignment before formally getting accepted as a brother and jihadist warrior: Capture a Christian and bring back his head, to prove your worth as ad-Dawla al-Islamiya, a term which the jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS) has called itself since June 2014.

Benjie left the organization, but, unfortunately, was spotted by his former comrades during the standoff in Marawi.

He was conscripted and compelled to gather food for the terrorists led by Isnilon Hapilon and Ommar Maute. He shared that he has come face-to-face with yet another of the leaders, Abdullah Maute.

On May 30, Benjie said word came that many of the child warriors have been moved to Butig, another of the Maute Group’s lairs in the province off the southeastern tip of Lake Lanao.

But, he added, the group is actively recruiting replacements from the 7-to-17 age group, “ipapalit sa mga bata (to replace the kids).”

Benjie has been taken in by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for appropriate debriefing and counseling purposes.

Click and watch this video report below: