ABU Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and 28 of his men ready to die for him are tunneling under a mosque hoping to escape the war zone in Marawi City, multiple military sources said Wednesday.
“Isnilon Hapilon knew he was deserted by his Maranao followers so he has to find ways to bail himself and his remaining men out from Marawi City. They continue to dig in under a mosque hoping to reach the lake or the Agus River,” a high-ranking military officer said.
The military confirmed that Hapilon was still alive and inside the war zone, despite earlier reports that he had escaped along with brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, leaders of the Islamic State-inspired terrorist group that stormed Marawi City on Aug. 23.
Some 539 terrorists and 122 soldiers have been killed in the fighting so far, and 45 civilians have died. The remaining terrorists—said to be from 50 to 70, including foreign fighters—have 100 civilian hostages. Four were recently rescued.
Another military source said Hapilon had duffle bags full of cash, jewelry and gold bars from ransacked banks and houses.
“The tunneling could lead to the lake or to the Agus River. Our troops are waiting for them to come out,” the official added, noting that the military was guarding all possible escape routes.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said the Marawi conflict is nearing its end and the military was preparing for the rebuilding and rehabilitation program for the residents of the Islamic City.
The military’s engineering brigades will be involved in rehabilitation works with billions of pesos needed to restore Marawi from the ruins of war against the terrorists.
In the main battle area, ground troops discovered a tunnel under a building where the terrorists stored their food, bullets, and weapons.
Also on Wednesday, the former town mayor of Marantao, Mohammadali Abinal told GMA-7 that the Maute group was still trying to recruit fighters but was having difficulty doing so.
He also said Maute terrorists were still trying to get into Marawi City on boats from Marantao. He said he did not know if they made it into the war-torn city, however, as he heard gunfire coming from Lake Lanao.
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