Indonesian fighter arrested in Marawi

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – An Indonesian national was arrested in Marawi City Wednesday morning, November 1, as the military continues to face stragglers in the battle area. 

The arrest of Mohamadin Ilham Syaputra comes a day after a Maute straggler was killed in a firefight that erupted in the battle area a week after the government declared the end of combat operations in the city. 

Task Group Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said the 22-year-old Indonesian was arrested at 7 am on Wednesday in Barangay Loksadatu by members of the civilian Barangay Peace Action Team (BPAT).

Police said they made the arrest after village officials found him trying to flee, adding he would face rebellion and terrorism charges. 

"He is part of the siege and an initial (encounter) in Piagapo," provincial police chief Senior Superintendent John Guyguyon told reporters, referring to a military operation in April against the militants in a town 45 minutes away from Marawi. 

The Indonesian arrived in the Philippines last year upon the invitation of the Filipino head of ISIS in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, according to Guyguyon, citing the gunman's account given to interrogators.

Hapilon, who was on the US government's list of most wanted terrorists, was killed last month along with fellow militant leader Omar Maute. (READ: Top Marawi siege leaders killed in clashes)

The Indonesian fighter, from Medan, said his group was involved in a 2016 suicide attack that killed 8 people in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and was claimed by IS, Guyguyon added. 

The militants had plotted to bomb military camps in the Philippines but this did not happen because of the Marawi attack, Guyguyon said. 

Authorities said they recovered a gun, a grenade and an undisclosed sum in Philippine, Indonesian, and Saudi Arabian currency from the arrested Indonesian.

Brawner said that the suspect was turned over to the Marawi Police and is now being investigated by military and police investigators.

Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to ISIS rampaged through Marawi, the principal Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23. They took over parts of the city using civilians as human shields.

Former Maute hostage Lordvin Acopio confirmed military reports that Indonesian fighters were among the foreign fighters that joined the battle in Marawi. 

Brawner said there are enough troops in Marawi City to deal with stragglers who are believed to be hiding in tunnels inside the battle area. 

The clearing operations at the heart of the battle area continues. Brawner said the job is taking time because the EOD teams were also deployed to the ASEAN summit.

 

– With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com