AFTER the deaths of the three top terrorist leaders and the rescue of 20 hostages from the Islamic State-linked Maute group this week in Marawi City, the military is now faced with the challenge of trying to determine the legitimacy of the “captives” under their custody.
“We have to validate who are the legitimate hostages and the [Maute] fighters. They have been mixing up that is why we have to segregate who are the remaining Maute members and who are the real hostages,” Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año told reporters on the sidelines of his testimonial parade at the Philippine Army Headquarters in Taguig City on Thursday night.
Año’s revelation came on the same day that Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian terrorist and alleged Maute financier, was killed in the firefight with government troops Wednesday night. Before Ahmad, soldiers took down Isnilon Hapilon, Abu Sayyaf Group leader and designated “emir” of the IS in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, one of the founders of the group bearing his family name.
Año said that of the 20 hostages rescued from the main battle area in Marawi, 10 were “suspected” of being members of the Maute group.
Año said ground commanders and their intelligence were assessing how many Maute fighters were actually left.
“We will make an assessment that will determine if how many are remaining fighters well maybe, no fighters were left,” Año said. DEMPSEY REYES