By Francis Wakefield
The spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division said that Maute Group sub-leader Abdul Nasser Lomondot who was arrested in Manila over the weekend was among a number of Maute terrorists who managed to sneak out of the main battle area (MBA) in Marawi City last year.
Major Ronald Suscano revealed during an interview that the terrorist leader may have slipped out some time September of last year or a month before the liberation of Marawi and hid in Manila.
“Ah hindi lang ako specific kung kelan pero it’s in between, kasi yung Marawi while ongoing iyun may mga naka-puslit kasi eh so sometime siguro ano, October (2017) man yung liberation, sometime September (I’m not just specific when it was but it’s between, Marawi while it’s ongoing some were able slipped out so maybe sometime, the liberation was October, so it’s sometime September),” Suscano said.
When asked how many accompanied Lomondot when he went to Manila, Suscano said he doesn’t have any information on that.
He said those who managed to escape from Marawi scattered into small groups and hid from authorities while the rest who are in Lanao del Sur regroup and retrained.
Aside from Lamondot, there are about nine Maute sub-leaders who remain and are also in hiding.
“Iyung mga naiiwan na, kasi sampung sub-leader pa iyung natira e, kasama siya doon sa sampu. Kung pumunta siya (Lamondot) sa Metro Manila baka may mission din sila na mga logistical siguro or whatever connection through… (Those left, there are about 10 sub-leaders left including him. If he went to Metro Manila maybe they have a mission like logistical or whatever connection),”Suscano said.
When asked if they have any informaton if Lomondot is planning to conduct terror activities, Suscano said they are looking into that.
“As of now wala pa pero isa iyun sa mga tinitingnan na pwede nilang gawin iyung bombing. Right after siguro, kung tuloy-tuloy yung training, hindi sila ma-disturb, isa yun sa pwede nilang gawin (It’s one of the things we are looking at that they will conduct bombing. If their training continues, if they will not be disturbed that is a possibility),” Suscano said.
“Pero continuous naman yung monitoring at nag aantay lang din iyung unit na concerned dito kung kelan sila pwedeng mag conduct ng operation (But our monitoring is continuous and our unit who is concerned on that is waiting when they will conduct the operation),” he said.
Suscano said relatives might have helped Lomondot hid in Manila.
“Siguro yung mga kamag-anak niya diyan, kasi ’di ba maraming maraming Maranao sa Metro Manila, mga nag ne-negosyo kasi very strong kasi yung bonding ng mga Maranao, iyung mga magkakamag-anak, family ties (Maybe he has relatives there because there are lots of Maranaos in Metro Manila who have businesses because they have strong bonds, family ties with each other),” Suscano said.
Lomondot, it was recalled, was caught on Recto Avenue, Manila at about 5:10 p.m. on Saturday
Reportedly recovered from his possession upon his arrest were a caliber .45 pistol and hand grenade.
Lomondot is a Maute Group sub-leader who took part in the Marawi rebellion during which he participated in the killing of innocent Christian civilians and committed violence against female and child hostages.
He was also one of the key planners in the attack of Marantao, Lanao del Sur during the Marawi rebellion. He underwent combat training in Butig, Lanao del Sur along with other Daesh members.
Since the death last year of Isnilon Hapilon, the established emir of Maute-Daesh in Southeast Asia region, the remnants of the group were scattered into small groups and went into hiding at selected areas of Lanao del Sur.
They were also monitored recruiting and conducting trainings particularly in the boundaries of Lanao and Maguindanao areas where they enjoy a certain level of civilian support.
Earlier this year, an encounter happened in Masiu, Lanao del Sur between the government troops and some elements of the Maute group. Their other members responsible in the killings of civilian vendors at Piagapo, Lanao del Sur were also apprehended.
Army 1st Infantry Division commander
Maj. Gen. Roseller G. Murillo, said their recent successes and apprehensions have been yielding valuable information that allowed authorities to further hunt down the remnants of the group.
“More so, these successes clearly indicate their dwindling organizational leadership and capabilities,” Murillo said.
“The government forces will continue to intensify its internal security operations in Joint Task Force “ZAMPELAN’s” area of operations to neutralize the remnants of terrorist groups in Lanao del Sur,” he added.
At present, Lomondot was brought to the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters on UN Avenue, Manila for processing and filing of appropriate cases.