MARAWI CITY, Philippines, June 6, (Agencies): Philippines troops found bundles of banknotes and cheques worth about $1.6 million abandoned by Islamist militants holed up in Marawi City, a discovery the military said on Tuesday was evidence that the fighters were pulling back.
Fighters linked to Islamic State have been cornered in a built-up sliver of the southern lakeside town after two weeks of intense combat. The military said that over the past 24 hours it had taken several buildings that had been defended by snipers.
In one house they found a vault loaded with neat stacks of money worth 52.2 million pesos ($1.06 million) and cheques made out for cash worth 27 million pesos ($550,000). “The recovery of those millions of cash indicates that they are running because the government troops are pressing in and focusing on destroying them,” Marines Operations Officer Rowan Rimas told a news conference in the town as helicopters on machinegun runs buzzed overhead.
Philippine police on Tuesday arrested a man who said he was the father of two brothers whose Maute group of Islamist militants led the seizure of southern Marawi City two weeks ago. The man, who identified himself as Cayamora Maute, was in a vehicle along with a son-in-law, a daughterin- law and a woman believed to be his wife, when it was stopped at a checkpoint in Davao City, regional police official Alexander Tagum said.
Meanwhile, it was an audacious plot sketched out in chilling detail with blue pens on the back of a paper calendar: Islamic militants in the Philippines, including one of the world’s most-wanted militant leaders, would take over a key southern city in their boldest attack to date. With unsettling calm, they spoke of taking hostages from a school, sealing off roads and capturing a highway “so the people will get scared.”
Video footage and a separate screengrab image of that secret meeting, obtained exclusively by The Associated Press, offer a rare glimpse into the clandestine operations of insurgents who followed through two weeks ago with an unprecedented assault on the lakeside city of Marawi, parts of which they still occupy today.
The images also provide the first visual proof that a nascent alliance of local Muslim fighters are not only aligned with the Islamic State group, but coordinating and executing complex attacks together. Among those at the table was the purported leader of the Islamic State’s Southeast Asia branch, Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head.