Established By: Abdullah Maute, Omar Maute
Also Known As: IS Ranao, Islamic State of Lanao
Country Of Origin: Philippines
Leaders: Owayda Benito Marohombsar a.k.a. Abu Dar, Abdullah Maute, Omar Maute
Key Members: Abdullah Maute, Omar Maute, Owayda Benito Marohombsar
Operational Area: Philippines
Number Of Members: 30
Involved In: Recruiting minors, Bomb attacks, Illegal drug trafficking
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The Maute group also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, is a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and some foreign fighters led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, or Islamic state based in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, Philippines. The group figured in a clash with Philippine Army troops in February 2016 that ended with the capture of their headquarters in Butig, Lanao del Sur. There are reports that Omar Maute, Abdullah’s brother, was killed in that clash. There are also reports to the contrary, claiming that he escaped before the camp was overrun and is still alive; video footage found on a cellphone captured by Philippine government troops during the Marawi crisis indicates this to be true. Since then the group, which a Philippine Army brigade commander characterized as terrorist, has been conducting a protection racket in the remote settlements of Butig.
The group was founded in 2012 by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, who were petty criminals at the time. The group was originally known as Dawlah Islamiya. The group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in April 2015, along with the Ansar Khalifa Philippines terrorist organization, vowing to provide support for each other. However, according to former National Security Council senior consultant Ashley Acedillo, there are no indications that ISIS ever acknowledged the Maute group’s pledge.
A report published in October 2016 stated that the Maute group “has the smartest, best-educated and most sophisticated members of all of the pro-ISIS groups in the Philippines.”
Philippine Army sources state that their initial encounter with the Maute group involved a firefight in 2013 when the insurgents attacked a security checkpoint the government troops were manning in Madalum, Lanao del Sur. The group is thought to have over 100 members and were supplied with equipment by a foreign terrorist. They are said to be affiliated with Jemaah Islamiya, a Southeast Asian Islamist terrorist group.
Although some reports indicate that the Maute group is regularly seen carrying black flags bearing the insignia of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Butig town mayor Ibrahim Macadato has stated that the group is not affiliated with ISIS, but are merely armed residents. However, training manuals and other documents for militants under the Islamic State were recovered from their captured camp, indicating that the group may be trying to link up with ISIS.
Butig, the headquarters of the Maute group, is also a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and both groups are tied by blood or marriage. Brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute are first cousins of Azisa Romato, the wife of the late MILF Vice Chairman for Military Affairs Alim Abdul Aziz Mimbantas, who is buried in Butig. The Maute brothers themselves were once members of the MILF.
As ISIS suffers setbacks in Syria and Iraq, experts warn that hundreds of fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia will return to look for new opportunities to take the fight elsewhere, and the Maute group’s pledge of loyalty to ISIS could serve as an incentive to join ranks with the organization. Since at least 2016, reports on jihadist activities in the Philippines and of Filipino fighters with ISIS indicate an increasing degree of coordination, cooperation, and cohesion between Southeast Asian jihadist militants and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Campaign of violence:
The Maute group is said to be actively recruiting minors for service as child warriors and using the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as propaganda. In April 2016, they abducted six sawmill workers from Butig, two of whom were later found beheaded. The group is also suspected of being behind a failed bomb plot in close proximity to the US embassy in Manila in November 2016.
Davao City bombing
On October 4, 2016, three men linked to the Maute group were arrested in connection with the 2016 Davao City bombing. The men were TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan, and Musali Mustapha. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Maute group had established links with the Abu Sayyaf and that there are “indications” that the group is aligning themselves with ISIS. On November 28, the Philippine government finally officially acknowledged that Maute is linked to ISIS in a live televised comment by President Rodrigo Duterte.
On May 23, 2017, the Maute group attacked the city of Marawi in the Philippines. The attack resulted in the destruction of homes, the deaths and wounding of soldiers, policemen, and civilians, the torching of a mosque, and a hospital being overrun. The former leader of Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon was seen with the group during the attack. The attack resulted in President Duterte declaring a state of martial law across the entire island of Mindanao with the possibility that it be expanded nationwide