MAUTE and Abu Sayyaf terrorists are using a mosque to store their loot, estimated at P500 million in cash, gold and jewelry, Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi said Tuesday.
“The looted items are brought to a central storage in a mosque and received by designated Maute members who were keeping a list for accounting,” Bautista said in a statement released to the media.
Bautista, who is also commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, also reported that government troops have overrun Dansalan College, one of the terrorists’ strongholds.
“The school is host to some high-rise structures that served as a machine gun nest and snipers’ vantage position for terrorist elements,” Bautista said.
Dansalan College was one of the establishments taken over and partially burned by Maute and ASG terrorists in the early part of the crisis.
“This is the same school where the Maute brothers had their earlier education,” Bautista said.
“A cadaver of a foreign-looking individual was also recovered by our troops. It is believed that it is one of the reported foreign fighters from Singapore. A total of 11 suspected foreign fighters have been reportedly killed so far,” he added.
Bautista said the news about the massive lootings by the terrorists were personal accounts of seven hostages who escaped from the terrorists’ lair.
“Seven hostages who were able to reach government forces two weeks ago, followed by another who escaped a few days later and by another two several days ago, made these disturbing revelations, thus corroborating earlier information received by JTF Marawi headquarters,” Bautista said.
“All these hostages revealed that they were forced to convert to Islam or be killed. According to them, they were initially tasked to loot and steal from the houses and establishments for ammunition, firearms, cash, gold and jewelry. They estimate that their group alone was able to loot or steal at least P500 million in cash not to include other items they had taken from households and business establishments,” he added.
“They believe that the amount of cash and valuable items looted could be worth more as there were several other groups being forced by terrorists to loot and steal for them.”
Bautista said the hostages were forced at gunpoint into a daily routine of looting and stealing scheduled from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and returned for lunch then back to looting-stealing after lunch, up to 3 p.m.
He said some of these reports have been validated.
“JTF Marawi will share more information with the public as more of it comes in and as soon as these are ascertained,” he said.
Soldiers who overran Dansalan College said they found a .50 heavy machine gun and 14 other high-powered firearms.
A total of 410 firearms have been taken from the terrorists.
A total of 1,717 trapped civilians have so far been rescued from the war zone.
Bautista said some 300 to 500 civilians are still trapped in the conflict area from the original estimate of 2,000 to 2,500 in the early days of the conflict.
A leader of a gunrunning syndicate and three of his cohorts that authorities claimed were selling high-powered firearms to criminal groups and unscrupulous politicians in Mindanao were arrested parallel to the seizure of cache of assorted weapons in Batangas Monday.
Chief Supt. Roel Ubusan, director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, identified the syndicate leader as Romel Litan, whose lucrative business operates in Metro Manila, parts of Luzon and Mindanao.
Also arrested were the syndicate members as Angelo Magcamit, Ramil Quinones and Christian Rey Quinones.
Among the stockpile of weapons seized were 19 pistols, four carbine rifles, three machine pistols and two assault rifles, two air rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, gun parts and accessories.
Ubusan said that the syndicate leader Litan has been selling assembled and refurbished armalite rifles and short firearms to politicians, military and criminal groups based in Mindanao and Metro Manila.
PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa, who presented some of the seized firearms in Camp Crame, described the weapons as similar to the firearms seized from the terrorists in Marawi City.
Citing initial reports, he said that the firearms recovered from Marawi came from the syndicate.
Ubusan said they recovered a record book along with a listing of where the firearms sold to Marawi went.
“We have leads as to how many firearms went to politicians, policemen and military in Marawi City,” Ubusan said.
Dela Rosa, for his part, said that all the firearms recovered from the battle zone in Marawi City will be subjected to cross-matching at the Camp Crame Crime Laboratory to determine their previous owners.
“If they are politicians who bought from the syndicate and whose firearms were recovered from the Maute fighting the police and military, they would be included in the rebellion case,” Ubusan said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said it was very unlikely that terrorists could launch an attack similar in scale to Marawi again.
He made this statement during the sidelights of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council meeting at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday. With PNA
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