Maute terror group raising its head in Mindanao
Affiliated with the Islamic State, the group includes mostly veteran fighters who survived the battle of Marawi in 2017, which saw at least 1,200 people die. The Philippine military have discovered a training camp and a laboratory to make explosive devices in the Marogong forest. The autonomy of Muslim-majority provinces could also be at risk.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The Maute terror group, which is named after the brothers who founded it in 2013, seems to be raising its head again, this according to Joint Task Force-Central Commander Major General Roy Galido.
This comes after the Philippine military discovered a training camp and a laboratory for the manufacture of explosive devices in the forest of Marogong, on Mindanao Island; as a result, the government is expanding the range of military operations in Lanao del Sur province, where a new recruitment campaign by Maute is reportedly underway.
The latter is responsible, among other things, for the largest military action by Islamist guerrillas in southern Philippines, namely the occupation of the city of Marawi.
Starting on 23 May 2017, it took the Philippine military five months to free the city, engaging in house-to-house combat with hundreds of armed fighters from the Maute group and its ally, the Abu Sayyaf group.
An estimated 1,200 civilians and fighters lost their lives, while about 200,000 inhabitants were evacuated from the city centre.
Maute is included in the list of terrorist groups both at home and abroad. Faharudin Hadji Satar, also known as Abu Zacariah, is said to be its new leader, coordinating its regional reorganisation. He is also said to be the head of the self-proclaimed emirate of Southeast Asia, part of the Islamic State group.
In Lanao del Sur province, where Muslims make up more than 90 per cent of the population, Maute is reportedly working with another local organisation, Dawlah Islamiyah. Its fighters – at least 40 according to military intelligence – are not only survivors from the battle of Marawi and subsequent clashes, but also young recruits.
In an attempt to prevent the group from spreading to other parts of Mindanao, the Joint Task Force Command is asking local officials and residents for their cooperation.
“We have to help each other to keep radicalism from proliferating,” General Galido said on Sunday. “This is important because if it proliferates, then we will have a bigger problem or worse, see something like what happened in Marawi. Let’s keep our youth from getting recruited.”
The prospect of renewed armed extremism in a strategic area of Asia also worries many other countries, and risks derailing the laborious process of autonomy building in the Muslim-majority areas of the southern Philippines included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM).
The transition to autonomy is set to continue until 2025, and the setting up of a BARRM government is considered a test case for the possible transformation of the country along federal lines.