Police arrested three people believed to have ties to the dreaded Maute terrorist group following a raid on a house here Wednesday, July 5.
Philippine National Police (PNP) 10 spokesperson Supt. Lemuel Gonda identified the arrested suspects as Gazim Mantawazi Abdullah, Monaliza Solaiman Romato, and Tahera Romato Taher.
They were arrested inside the house rented by Irene Romato-Idris in Barangay Macasandig at around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Irene Romato-Idris was not in the house when agents belonging to the Martial Law Special Action Group (MSLAG) raided it, though she was identified as a distant relative of Ominta “Farhana” Romato-Maute.
Farhana, who was arrested last month, is mother to Maute group leaders Omarkhayam and Abdullah and was identified by authorities as her sons’ financiers.
Wednesday’s arrest was made by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Dennis Alcantar, the executive judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 18 here. Macasandig village councilors Mario Bolanio and Eric Waban acted as witnesses during the raid.
Seized from the raided house were the following items: four pieces M203 grenade (40 millimeter high explosive), a blasting cap, a 9-volt battery with battery holder, a piece of C4 explosive, eight pieces detonating cords, 19 pieces 100-watt incandescent bulbs, a jungle knife, and plastic bag and plastic bottle containing suspected ammonium nitrate.
Chief Inspector Mardy Hortillosa, spokesperson of the Cagayan de Oro City Police, said it was possible the seized items were used in making improvised explosive device.
Insp. Hortillosa said Idris has assumed the position of Farhana as the group’s financier when the latter was arrested as she was trying to escape in Lanao del Sur last month.
Hortillosa said Idris and the three suspects are also allegedly involved in the operations of the Maute group, and that this was confirmed through the confession of Maute members who were arrested in Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo recently.
Mohammad Noaim Maute, alias Abu Jadid and Alfaiz Mamintal was nabbed in a house he rented in Barangay Macasandig, this city, on June 15. He is believed to be a bomb expert.
Three other suspected members of the terrorist group were apprehended in Iloilo on June 18.
Hortillosa said the newly arrested suspects will be charged with rebellion and illegal possession of explosives. They are presently detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group headquarters.
Based on the testimonies of several witnesses, Hortillosa said Monaliza and Tahera are involved in the intelligence gathering and acted as liaison officers for the group.
With the help of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute members are fighting the government troops in Marawi City for more than a month now.
Maute has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based terrorist organization Islamic State or Daesh. The local terrorist group is planning to control Mindanao and make it a province of the Islamic State.
MLSAG is composed of police officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 10 team, Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and 4th Infantry Division Military Intelligence Battalion. (Jigger J. Jerusalem and Mark D. Francisco/PNA)