New armed group after IS-inspired terrorists in Marawi
MARAWI CITY — A new armed group has emerged in Lanao del Sur province and challenged Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists battling government forces for control of Marawi City.
But provincial officials and the military have declined to comment until they have ascertained who are behind the new group that calls itself Meranaw Victims Movement (MVM).
“Meranaw” is a generic term that refers to the natives of the two Lanao provinces. It means “people of the lake.”
MVM posted a statement on Facebook on Monday demanding that the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf terrorists holed up in Marawi free their hostages and leave the city “at once.”
If not, MVM would be “compelled to face” the terrorists, as they “no longer care [about] the welfare of the people” and “did not only fail to realize, but [also] had violated the essence of jihad in Islam.”
The statement was signed by Abu Ayla Mawaraw, the group’s spokesperson.
The exact number of civilian hostages held by the terrorists is unknown. Military officials estimate the number at 40 to 60 after the escape on Saturday by Catholic priest Teresito Soganub and Dansalan College teacher Lordbin Noblesa Acapio.
Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee, said he could not comment on the emergence of MVM, as the local authorities had yet to determine who was behind the new group.
Col. Romeo Brawner, Joint Task Force Group Marawi commander, said top military officials in the region were trying to determine the identities of the people behind the group, as well as the source of the video that was posted on Facebook.
“We do not belittle this group. We take it seriously because they could encourage people outside of Marawi who have no idea what is really going on here,” Brawner said.
‘We are evacuees’
In a Facebook chat on Tuesday, Mawaraw said MVM was made up of civilians.
“We are all evacuees,” he said.
In its statement on Monday, MVM demanded that President Duterte stop airstrikes on Marawi to save “the houses or buildings that may not have been destroyed yet” and to allow the return of residents to areas of the city that had already been cleared by the military.
The group also urged the government to “[s]ecure the remains of civilians so they may not be mixed with the garbage in the process of military clearing operations and so that they may be given proper burial.”
MVM also said the government should ease access to southern Lanao del Sur towns and “(s)top the abuses of some military and police personnel at checkpoints, and accord respect to civilians, especially the women.”
It also urged the government to provide support to wounded civilians and pay compensation for the damaged houses and buildings and other property.
The government, the group said, should also rebuild or rehabilitate mosques, Arabic schools and other damaged structures that represented the Meranaw culture and heritage.