MANILA, Philippines – More than a week before President Rodrigo Duterte decided to declare martial law in Mindanao to address the crisis in Marawi City, Islamist extremists led by senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group were already prepared to carry out their “big war,” which includes the assault on the Lanao del Sur capital.
A copy of a video obtained by News5, shows Hapilon, said to be the designated ISIS emir in Southeast Asia, leading a prayer in Arabic and Tausug with Abu Sayyaf members, brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute and some foreigners said to be Malaysians and Indonesians and asking God to keep them safe in their grand plan to wage a war.
Based on the video’s data file, the footage appeared to have been recorded last May 14, nine days before Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao following the Maute Group’s May 23 Marawi siege and the military raid against the extremists in the city’s Barangay Basak Malutlut.
After the prayer, Hapilon is shown in the video talking in Tausug and telling his companions that they are ready to attack Marawi and that they already have support from Jolo in Sulu, Maguindanao, Indonesia, and Arab countries, and from the Maranao, Tausug, and Yacan people.
Translated in Tagalog, this is what Hapilon says in the video:
“Nakahanda na tayo sa gagawing paglusob sa Marawi…May support tayo galing Jolo…May support tayo galing ng Indonesia at Arab…Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Yacan.”
He also tells his comrades that he had dreamt a month ago about the siege in Marawi and God accompanying them in their fight.
“Nanaginip ako tungkol dito, sa mga lider ng mga Abu Sayyaf noong isang buwan…kasama natin si Allah sa laban natin.”
Hapilon further tells his fellow extremists that it will be a big war and that they will be the ones who will continue jihad.
He says they should not be afraid to die because they will lose their lives during jihad and they have the support of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Sunni militant jihadist organization ISIS.
“Malaking giyera ito…Tayo ang magpapatuloy ng jihad. Kahit mamatay tayo, ‘wag kayo matakot kasi mamatay tayo sa jihad.”
The video further shows Hapilon and his group ending their talk with another prayer, saying the names of various prophets and asking them for guidance.
In the succeeding video clips, members of Hapilon’s group are seen making improvised explosive devices, while some are exercising and others are learning about the different parts and functions of high-caliber firearms.
Meanwhile, the military reported on Wednesday that government forces had recovered eight buildings in Marawi believed to be used by Maute terrorists as sniper and machine gun positions.
But Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo declined to give the locations of the establishments as doing so could give the lawless elements time to reposition or recapture the buildings again.
“I can’t give exact details on how many buildings remain to be captured but what I can give you with certainty is how many did we recover. As of yesterday or this morning, we have received reports that we have captured eight and among these is one of the highest, which (contains) their sniper nests and machine gun positions and overlooks Marawi City,” Arevalo said.
He said the Maute Group’s resistance was dwindling but emphasized that the military was not taking this lightly. “We cannot be imprudent, we have to be very careful with our actions as they are still holding some civilian hostages.”
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