By Jeff Caparas, News5 | Pat Ortiz, InterAksyon
Photo:The drugs police said was found in the house of former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali. (image from News5 video)
MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Police claimed to have found two kilos of crystal meth or shabu in the house of a former mayor of Marawi City who they claimed is also a supporter of the Maute group, proof, they said, that the extremist group is linked to the illegal drug trade.
Officials also said they have good reason to believe one of the brothers who founded the extremist group, Omar Khayyam Maute, has been killed in combat.
Meanwhile, in Cagayan de Oro, the 4th Infantry Division has formed “Task Force Oro” to guard against attempts by the extremists to infiltrate the northern Mindanao city.
Chief Inspector William Santos of the police’s Drug Enforcement Group said they also found drug paraphernalia inside the home of former mayor Omar Solitario Ali, indication the extremist gunmen use drugs as they continue to battle government forces in Marawi.
Ali’s brother Fahad, also a former mayor of the city, was arrested earlier and charged with rebellion for alleged ties to the extremists. The brothers are among more than 100 persons ordered arrested under an order issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator in Mindanao.
For his part, Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman of Joint Task Force Marawi, said “there is a strong indication” Omar Maute was “killed in a firefight two weeks ago,” around the same time word first circulated he was dead.
However, the other Maute brother, Abdullah, and Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who authorities claim has been named “emir” by the Islamic State, are likely still alive.
Still, with the death toll nearing 400, more than half of these extremists, including at least eight foreign fighters, the military says it is making progress, pointing to 85 buildings that had been cleared in the last 48 hours by soldiers who also recovered firearms and communications equipment.
In Cagayan de Oro, Captain Rey Escalera said Colonel Royland Orquia, deputy commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, will head the battalion-size Task Force Oro. .
“If the Martial Law-Special Action Group gathers intelligence, if they have information about something, our job is to be there in the area and respond to the call,” Escalera, the task force’s operations officer, explained their mission.
Aside from combat troops, the task force also includes personnel from the Explosive and Ordinance Division and the Army’s K9 company, among others.
The task force will also assist police man checkpoints and monitor those traveling in and out of the city.