Widow of slain Maute group leader, followers arrested in Cotabato City
Published: 8:57 a.m., Jan. 24, 2018 | Updated: 9:51 p.m., Jan. 24, 2018
COTABATO CITY — Police arrested at least four suspected supporters of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute terror group, among them the wife of one of the slain leaders of the group, in separate raids in Cotabato City and in Piagapo town, Lanao del Sur province, on Tuesday.
Najiya Karon-Maute, an engineer, was nabbed in her house in Barangay Rosary Heights 3 in Cotabato City past 2 p.m. Tuesday, said Senior Supt. James Allan Logan, chief of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM).
Chief Insp. Allan Uy, spokesperson for CIDG-ARMM, said Karon-Maute was the widow of Mohammad Khayyam Maute, one of the Maute brothers who led the siege of Marawi City on May 23 last year.
Karon-Maute was 22nd on the list of those charged with rebellion in an order issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on June 5 last year, barely two weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 which placed the entire Mindanao under martial law.
Mohammad Khayyam was reportedly killed in the early days of the fighting, which ended in October last year when the last of the Maute brothers, Omarkhayyam, who led the siege, was killed along with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
Karon-Maute and her family members declined to speak to reporters.
“(She) is still undergoing tactical interrogation about her role in the terror group,” Uy said.
In Lanao del Sur, a military operation on Tuesday nabbed suspected Maute supporters Jamal Ramal Berongan, also known as “Mayor;” Ibrahim Alek Undi, also known as “Brad Alexander;” and Apao Dimacaling.
Maj. Roger Suscano, officer in charge of the public affairs office of the Army’s First Infantry Division, said soldiers recovered from Dimacaling and Berongan two .45-cal pistols.
“They are not on the official list of the Maute group as members but they are verified [to be] aggressive sympathizers of the IS-inspired group because they are armed and willing to kill [soldiers] and suspected assets of government forces,” Suscano said.
Senior Supt. John Guyguyon, Lanao del Sur provincial police director, said a review of their records showed that the three men were also behind the killing of three furniture vendors, who were natives of Misamis Oriental province, in Piagapo last month.
Guyguyon said the suspects had told investigators they killed the vendors as a way of exacting revenge for the deaths of their relatives during the Marawi siege.
But according to Guyguyon, the police can not charge them based on their confession alone because the law protects them against self-incrimination.
“This is our challenge. It is difficult for us to pursue our case because no one will come out to [stand] witness against them,” he said.
The least the police could do was to charge them for illegal possession of firearms, he added.
The military had identified Piagapo as among the areas in Lanao del Sur where the Maute group maintained its presence before the Marawi siege. Several Maute gunmen were killed in a clash with soldiers in Piagapo in April last year.
Authorities have been pursuing remnants or supporters of the Maute group since the siege of Marawi started in May last year.
More than 90 people had been arrested but some of them were eventually cleared. /kga /pdi
Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City
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