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Philippines nabs top member of terror group ravaging southern city

15 June 2017 13:20


The Philippines’ military says it has arrested a top member of a local terrorist group that has pledged allegiance to Daesh and overrun parts of a southern city in the country.

The senior commander, identified as Mohammad Noaim Maute, alias Abu Jadid, was nabbed at a checkpoint in the vicinity of the coastal city of Cagayan de Oro early in the morning of Thursday, announced Lt Col Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, in a statement.

Two of Mohammad’s brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah, are co-leaders of the Maute militant group, which was founded some five years ago and pledged alliance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in April 2015.

On May 23, the Maute group overran parts of Marawi City, the capital and the largest city of the province of Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, and since then, it has been at the forefront of a vicious battle with the government forces, deployed to eliminate the group’s members in the city.

Reports say that most of the other seven Maute brothers, including the co-leaders of the group, are in Marawi. Their parents were arrested in separate cities last week.

Marawi City is some 100 kilometers south of Cagayan de Oro, where Mohammad was arrested, but it was not clear whether he was coming from the restive city.

Smoke rises after airstrikes conducted by Philippine Air Force planes on Daesh positions in Marawi City, on the southern island of Mindanao, June 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay, a spokesman for the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said that Mohammad was a suspected bomb-maker for the Maute terrorist group, adding that he was carrying a fake student card of Mindanao State University, based in Marawi City, when he was stopped at the checkpoint.

Mohammad, an Arabic language teacher, was not armed when he was arrested, Gapay further said, adding that he revealed his identity soon after his detention.

Philippine troops, supported by US Special Operations Forces, are currently fighting to dislodge some 400 militants holed up in Marawi since last month.

The city is Muslim-populated. The Philippines is mainly Catholic.

Marawi is largely deserted now, with some 250,000 people having fled the lakeside city on the Philippines’ southernmost island of Mindanao. An estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians remain trapped in the city, however, and some of them are reportedly being used by the terrorists as human shields.

At least 26 civilians, 58 police forces or soldiers, and 202 militants have been killed in the fighting in the city so far, according to the government.

Daesh is mainly concentrated in Iraq and Syria, where its members have been sustaining heavy losses in offensives by national armies in recent months.

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