The country’s security forces make significant arrests as Duterte once again threatens to eat the organs of terrorists
Philippine security forces detained Monaliza Romato, the ‘matriarch’ of the Islamic-State affiliated militant group responsible for attacking Marawi, on Wednesday following a raid on a terrorist cell in Cagayan de Oro city, about 100 km from the fighting on the on the southern island of Mindanao.
They also captured two further suspects found with ammunition and bomb-making materials. Romato is believed to have superseded her aunt, Ominta Maute, as the top female organizer in the militant group after Maute was arrested last month. Maute’s sons Abdullah and Omarkhayam established the Maute militant group, originally known as Dawlah Islamiya, in 2012.
“[Monaliza] is providing financial and logistical support to the Maute terrorist group, and her house in Cagayan de Oro served as a sanctuary and transit point for Maute terrorist members,” military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told the Straits Times.
According to Chief Inspector Mardy Hortillosa, a police spokesman, the cell was preparing bomb attacks in Cagayan de Oro in a bid to divert attention away from Marawi. Irene Idris, a fourth suspect and one of the terrorist group’s financiers, managed to escape arrest.
News of the bust emerged not long after the Philippine military announced that it had discovered two beheaded Vietnamese sailors on neighbouring Basilan island. The two men were part of a group of six kidnapped last year by Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamist group that has engaged in brutal kidnap-and-ransom activities since the 1990s.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte responded to the group’s barbarity with a typically gruesome threat.
“I will eat your liver if you want. I will just add salt and vinegar, I will eat it in front of you,” he said during a speech at the presidential palace on Wednesday, the second time he has made such a threat. “What are you really trying to prove? You take the name of Allah in vain?”
Both the Maute group and Abu Sayaaf were born out of frustration with the way in which their respective predecessors, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had pursued independence for the island of Mindanao, where over 90% of the country’s Muslims live.
While the Maute group and Abu Sayaaf continue to wage campaigns of terror in the Southern Philippines, the MILF and MNLF are now both involved in peace talks with the government.
Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace implementing panel, said recently that a large majority of the local population still preferred a non-violent process.
“Young people, the youth, are bold and daring. Young people are attracted to idealism,” he told Rappler in May. “Right now, modesty aside, the greater majority of our people are still listening to the MILF. We still have that popularity among our people.”