The ISIS-inspired Maute group still holed up in Marawi City is facing leadership problems as its numbers continue to dwindle after weeks of clashes with government forces, a military official said Monday.
"[There] is the crumbling of leadership inside the conflict zone or in ground zero. We have validated reports that there are leadership problems inside," Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said in a news conference.
Herrera said the Maute members are running out of ammunition and funds to fuel their operation in Marawi City, adding some militants already want to flee the conflict-stricken zone.
"Some of them, especially those other groups would like already to get away from the battle zone, in Tagalog gusto na nila lumayas, gusto na nila tumakas. However, there are some groups who wanted to stay behind, stay in the conflict zone," he said.
Herrera said this supposed fracture within the Maute organization may have been spurred by reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon has fled Marawi City.
"Kung tatakas 'yung lider mo, iiwan mo 'yung mga sundalo mo, so what will happen to your command and control?" Herrera asked.
"This has been affecting their morale. Mahina na sila. These are the manifestations that they are losing their ground," he added.
Furthermore, Herrera said tribal differences may have played a role in the disputes among the Maute members. He noted that Maranao tribal leaders have called on their members in the Maute group to surrender and prevent the deterioration of their culture.
"There is a huge clamor among the Maranao, our traditional leaders, religious leaders, convincing these [Maute members] to get out because they are not only destroying Marawi, but they are also destroying the culture and the next generation of the Maranao people," he said.
'Victory is irreversible'
Meanwhile, Herrera emphasized that the military "is winning and that victory is irreversible" in Marawi City as shown by their successful clearing operations.
The military official said 86 buildings previously held by the Maute group have been cleared, while more than 360 high-powered firearms, improvised explosive devices, and various communication equipment were also recovered.
"They have very limited maneuver space, ang ibig sabihin nito lumiliit yung mundo nila, lumiliit yung maneuver space nila, lumiliit yung defensive positions nila," Herrera said.
"Enemy resistance continues to wane and enemy held areas continue to diminish as government security forces press its advance. Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy held positions as evidenced by the recovery of cadavers of terrorists and their firearms," he added. —KBK/KVD, GMA News