‘Middle East money’ funds ISIS terrorism in Philippines
COTABATO CITY – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said local ISIS fighters have received funding from the Middle East and use this to finance their violent activities in the restive southern region of Mindanao.
He said the fund went directly to Isnilon Hapilon, chieftain of the Abu Sayyaf and leader of the ISIS group in the country. Hapilon and members of the Maute group comprise the local ISIS with other allied jihadist movements.
Lorenzana did not say whether the funding came from the Islamic State or other militant groups or from individuals.
“They have a lot of money to spend around, they are buying royalties,” Lorenzana said. “How could a Yakan Ispilon bring his troops Yakan to a Maranao area, a contrary or a whatever, there is only one reason there, he has a lot of money to distribute and buy these.”
Lorenzana was referring to an ethnic tribe in Basilan province where Hapilon belongs. Marawi is largely a Maranao tribe. He also said that security forces had killed at least 120 militants, including foreigners – two from Saudi Arabia, two from Malaysia, two from Indonesia, a Yemeni and another from Chechnya – in Marawi where ISIS fighters occupied the city on May 23.
He said the foreign militants sneaked through the southern Philippines.
Troops recover P76 million Just last week, troops fighting local ISIS in war-ravaged city also recovered over P76 million in cash and cheques from a house the militant group used in attacking security forces, officials said.
Officials also presented the P52.2 million cash and about P23.7 million worth of cheques in a news conference here. Marines were clearing the house when they discovered the money, including an automatic rifle.
“Marine forces doing house to house clearing against the terrorists recovered the amount and under constant fire, a team extricated the area to surrender the millions to the headquarters of Task Force Marawi.”
“The recovered money will be for safekeeping of proper authorities until appropriate investigation is conducted and proper identification of owner is established. This act is a manifestation for keeping the highest standard of discipline, valor and commitment in safeguarding Marawi and defending the community from terror elements,” said Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.
It was unknown whether the money were looted by militants from a bank in Marawi or ISIS funds, but an investigation was immediately launched to determine the origin of the huge amount of cash.
Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, the task force commander, praised the soldiers for their honesty and bravery. “We are proud of our soldiers in the field. Their commendable actions in caring for our people bespeak of the best practices in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
Jihadists occupied Marawi on May 23 and dozens of people had been killed in the fighting that displaced over 200,000 civilians now in evacuation centers here and other parts of Lanao del Sur.
Recovered money worth P53.2 million in Marawi City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Rhoderick Beñez)