MARAWI CITY/CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Authorities released the names of four suspected Maute Group members killed in an ambush on a government convoy Saturday night, adding that they could have been silenced by certain forces to prevent them from testifying against Okinta Romato Maute alias Farhana, mother of the Maute brothers leading the siege of Marawi.
The Joint Task Group of the Philippine National Police under Task Force Marawi identified the alleged members as:
1. Zulkifli Risales Maute
2. one Alias Gar Hadji Suluman
3. Salah Gasim Abbas
4. Allan Capal Sulaiman
They had been arrested at 2 pm Friday in Masiu, Lanao del Sur with Okinta alias Farhana, dubbed the “queen” – because she was allegedly helping raise funds and recruit members of the Maute Group set up by her sons Omar and Abdullah Maute.
Three days earlier, the Mautes’ patriarch, Cayamora Maute, was arrested at a check point in Davao City and flown to Metro Manila.
Also arrested with Farhana were several wounded men and seven women.
Authorities seized from their group high-caliber firearms and some explosives.
The PNP said Farhana’s group was on board a gray Toyota Revo when apprehended by police in Barangay Kormato in Masiu town.
The PNP learned he group had earlier sought refuge in Brgy. Dayawan, also in Masiu, where they bought several vehicles and arms that they had meant to use as they exited Lanao del Sur.
‘Queen’ was financier, recruiter
Farhana was tagged the “queen” and financier of the Maute Group, and together with her husband Cayamora had recruited members for the terrorist group that linked up with Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon in the mission to set up an ISIS “wilayat” or province in Mindanao.
Before the arrest of Farhana, several suspected Maute Group members had been spotted in Marawi’s neighboring towns, prompting a warning from ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman that anyone supporting the terrorist group will be made to answer, especially if they are elements of the local government units.
“Kung meron sumusuporta.. . definitely may pananagutan sila kahit LGU, local government,” said Hataman.
Dead on arrival
The four captured Maute Group members who were ambushed Saturday night as they were being transported separately from Farhana were rushed to the Dr. Uy Hospital in Iligan City, but three died on arrival. The fourth succumbed to injuries later.
A police officer on the convoy was also injured after unknown elements fired at them as the convoy reached Barangay Kalanganan in Pantar, Lanao del Sur enroute to Cagayan de Oro, where charges would have been filed against the terror suspects.
Senior Supt. Rolly Anduyan, commander of the PNP Joint Task Group, explained that they had to airlift sensitive personalities” could not do so for the rest, because there were simply too many of them and “we have to take them by land.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año confirmed the slain men were with Farhana’s group. “May wounded na isang PNP personnel. The four [suspected members of] Maute were killed during the ambush.” He could not give further details on the ambush, adding, “we shall wait for the report of the PNP.”
Año raised the possibility that fellow Maute members were behind the ambush, to prevent the men from testifying against Farhana or giving information to authorities.
JTG commander Anduyan noted that, “actually matataas yung hinahawakan nilang hierarchy ng Maute.” He said that apprehension was crucial in the bid to crush the terrorists because Farhana was deemed the “queen,” adding that the men were “within the network of the queen, kumbaga parang anay –nandun sila sa network ng queen [like termites, they are within the queen’s network].”
Meanwhile, some residents of Barangay Kalalangan in Pantar, however, appeared unconvinced the men were killed in an ambush.
One village leader said, “may dumaan na trak ng PNP sa Lanao del Sur; pagdating dito biglang may pumutok at wala namang kontra. Dapat kung may kalaban maraming putukan [a PNP truck passed by, and gunshots were heard. There was no counterfire. If there was an enemy, there would have been much gunfire].”
Residents did not see any force that ambushed the PNP convoy, added the village official.