By Aaron Recuenco
Abu Dar, the only remaining leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in central Mindanao, has been recruiting orphans of those who fought against the government during the Marawi City siege less than years ago.
Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the 103rd Brigade, said that based on their intelligence-gathering, Abu Dar has been leading the training of children as young as nine years old in a remote area in Lanao del Sur.
“We were able to confirm this after we seized small black shirts when we overran their camp three weeks ago,” said Brawner.
During the operation, at least five fighters of Abu Dar were killed while eight others were wounded. Among those wounded, according to Brawner, was Abu Dar.
Brawner said that Abu Dar is currently on a recruiting spree and using money to lure local residents to join him.
The recruitment is in Lanao del Sur, mostly in areas where displaced local residents of Marawi City are staying.
“He is targeting the orphans and relatives of those who died in the Marawi siege. Sometimes, he is offering money for them to join him,” said Brawner.
Another proof of recruitment of minors was the surrender of a son of Omar Maute recently, who said he started training at nine years old.
It was not clear how Abu Dar obtained money to lure his recruits but it was recalled that the fighters of Maute Group had ransacked the houses and business establishments in Marawi City.
Abu Dar and at least 20 of his men who survived the raid on their camp are believed to be holed up in the jungles of Lanao del Sur.
Among those who are with him, according to Brawner, are possibly child warriors.
“He is still in Lanao del Sur. We cannot allow him to just roam around Lanao del Sur,” said Brawner.
He said their operation to neutralize Abu Dar has been ongoing.