MANILA – One local politician has been arrested and others are wanted for supporting Islamist militants who have taken over parts of a southern Philippine city, authorities said Thursday.
Nearly 200 people have been reported killed since militants flying black flags of the Islamic State group went on a rampage in Marawi, the main Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
While much of the focus has been on the hundreds of gunmen reportedly involved, authorities said Thursday that they had been receiving support from local politicians and residents.
“It’s a combination of names of politicians, private citizens and members of Maute, the leaders,” military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said on ABS-CBN television as he discussed a list of about 200 people wanted for helping the gunmen.
Maute is one of the main militant groups, named after brothers with that surname who are from the region and are believed by the military to be among those still holed up in pockets of the city protected by human shields.
In what the military said was a significant development, ex-Marawi mayor Fahad Salic was arrested on charges of rebellion on Wednesday in another part of the southern Philippines.
“Even before the Marawi crisis, there were reports that he was a staunch supporter, he’s providing logistics and finances during the formative years of this Maute-ISIS group,” regional military spokesman Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay told reporters.
The military also hailed the capture on Tuesday of the father of the Maute brothers in the southern city of Davao, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown about 190 kilometres (120 miles) from Marawi.
“As the patriarch of the Maute clan, Mr Cayamora Maute is considered as one of the brains of the Maute-ISIS terror group,” Gapay said.
The elder Maute was brought to Manila, more than 800 kilometres (497 miles) from Marawi, on Thursday because of the possibility militants may try to break him out of jail in the south, Gapay said.
The unrest prompted Duterte to declare martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, home to about 20 million people, to quell what he said was a bid by IS to establish a caliphate there.
Mindanao has been plagued for decades by a Muslim separatist insurgency, which has claimed more than 120,000 lives and condemned many parts of the region to be ruled by corrupt warlords.
The main rebel organisations are seeking to broker a final peace accord with the government.
But the Maute and other small hardline groups are not interested in peace and have in recent years sought to unite under IS.