MARAWI CITY: Members of the Maute Group have been collecting bombs dropped by the military that did not explode, a reliable source said on Tuesday.
The source said the terrorists are collecting weapons and unexploded bombs. He did not say how many bombs have been retrieved by the terror group but since fighting erupted on May 23, the military had used artillery and conducted air bombardments on a daily basis.
The source said the Maute group described their loot “ghanima,” which means “spoils of war.”
Some Maute Group members are known for their skills on bomb making.
Authorities have not disclosed how many bombs have been dropped on Marawi and how many of them exploded.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman of the Joint Task Force Marawi, said the military is verifying if the terrorists are indeed retrieving unexploded bombs from the battle zone.
He said there were reports that civilian hostages were being ordered to collect bombs and weapons.
“We have reports on the ground that hostages are being used as human shields. They are using the hostages even for collecting bombs,” Herrera said.
He added that it is possible that a bomb will not go off.
“But the bomb will explode when triggered,” Herrera said.
No prisoner swap
Negotiators who talked with the Maute Group on Sunday said a possible prisoner swap was not discussed, quashing reports that the leaders of the Islamic State-linked group sought the release of their parents in exchange for the freedom of a priest they are holding captive.
Two of the emissaries who entered the battle zone during a brief ceasefire on Sunday however said a prisoner exchange is possible and can be proposed to the Maute group.
There were reports that Abdullah Maute sought the release of Cayamora and Ominta Maute and other fighter. In exchange, the group will release Fr. Chito Suganob, who was taken hostage along with dozens of civilians when the terrorists attacked on May 23.
The negotiators said the Maute group reiterated that they will release their hostages if government troops are pulled out of the city.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said they have no information about the demand.
Even if there is such a proposal, he said the government does not negotiate with terrorists.
“[T]he local religious leader led talks with the terrorists last Sunday but that was not sanctioned by the government, the military and our political leaders. Any demands made inside therefore hold no basis,” Padilla told reporters.
Malacañang also rejected any negotiation with the Maute Group.
“Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of the terrorists and their supporters’ offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
An estimated 200 civilians are believed trapped in Marawi.
The government has said that more than 300 people have been killed during the more than a month of fighting in Marawi.
A video uploaded on the Internet showed 10 civilians clad in orange shirts being executed by the Maute terrorists on May 23. Another group of five men were also executed on June 2.