MARAWI CITY, Philippines — (UPDATE 3 – 4:49 p.m.) An Indonesian who has admitted being one of the extremist gunmen who battled government forces for five months in Marawi City was captured Wednesday as he tried to escape the shattered capital of Lanao del Sur.
Authorities said Mohammad Ilham Syahputra, 23, was caught in Barangay Loksadatu by members of the barangay peacekeeping action team. He subjected to inquest proceedings before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office after he was flown to Metro Manila Wednesday evening and underwent tactical interrogation at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Camp Crame.
After the inquest administered by Assistant State Prosecutor Ethel Rhea Suril, Syahputra was charged with violating the following laws: Article 134 (Rebellion) of the Revised Penal Code; Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulatory Act; R.A. 9516 or the LAw on Explosives; and R.A. 9581 or the International Humanitarian Law.
Although the Indonesian can speak Tagalog, the watchmen’s suspicions were aroused by his appearance. Syahputra was said to be sopping wet from swimming in Lake Lanao during his scape attempt.
A bag containing a gun, grenade, Indonesian currency, jewelry and identification cards was seized from him.
A source privy to the capture of the Indonesian said he disclosed that 30 fighters with a number of hostages remained in the main battle area of Marawi.
Among other things, Syahputra, a native of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, claimed involvement in the January 2016 Thamrin attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, which was claimed by the Islamic State.
He arrived in Marawi in November last year on the invitation of Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf commander who helped lead the occupation of the city.
The deaths of Hapilon and another leader of the gunmen, Omar Maute, signaled the end of the Marawi crisis.
Senior Superintendent John Guyguyon, acting director of the Lanao del Sur police, said the Indonesian claimed he really wanted to leave.
“He’s even claiming na binaril niya ‘yung kasama niyang (that he shot his fellow) Indonesian because he wants to escape at dahil wala naman daw silang pinaglalaban (and because they really had nothing to fight for),” Guyguyon said.
“Our action is to file a case against him because he is part of the initial siege,” Guyguyon said. “We are preparing the investigation report so we can file cases of rebellion, terrorism and others.”
The arrest highlights that “civilian participation is essential in our collective effort to secure our communities from terrorist elements,” said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the local crisis committee.
Thousands of Marawi residents have started returning home, only for some to find dwellings ransacked. But the main battle area remains off limits, until possible booby traps and unexploded ordnance have been cleared. (with a report from Jeff Caparas, News5 | Reuters)