LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The top leaders of the Marawi siege offered millions of pesos in exchange for their safe passage out of the war-torn city, Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said.
Año said in a news conference on Monday, October 16, that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon – the supposed emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia – and Omar Maute were desperate to flee Marawi as government troops closed in on them.
Both were killed past midnight on Monday. (READ: Top Marawi siege leaders killed in clashes)
“We received such information that they were offering millions for anyone who can lead and can provide them with banca (boat) and guide them out of [the] main battle area,” Año said in a press conference with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at Camp Ranao, the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Battalion, on Monday.
The military believes that the nearly P1-billion loot taken by local terrorists from homes and establishments in Marawi is still hidden and buried somewhere in the main battle area.
“As days passed, they (terrorists) each took [their] own [share of the loot] and hid the money so that when they can escape, they can come back for it,” Año said.
The AFP chief believes that the money is still in Marawi as the military had already sealed off the city.
“I believe the money is still inside the main battle area,” Año said.
He added that Hapilon and Omar Maute were so desperate to get out of Marawi City that they even commanded their hostages to provide them with boats to aid their escape.
Año said that based on the information that the military received, there were at least two motorized boats readied for the terrorist leaders’ escape but the latter were unable to reach them because of the intense firefight that later claimed their lives.
Año said the supposed escape route of the terrorist leaders had been sealed off by joint special operatives from the Army, Marines, and Special Action Force of the police.
The Navy Special Operations Group (NavSOG) and the police had sealed off Lake Lanao, which prevented any escape through the lake.
At least 20 terrorists were killed by the NaVSOG as they tried to enter or exit the main battle area through Lake Lanao.
“All who attempted to escape [through the lake] we have neutralized,” Año added. – Rappler.com