Fighting erupted in Marawi after a bungled raid aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, whom Islamic State proclaimed as its “emir” of Southeast Asia last year after he pledged allegiance to the group. The U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of up to $5 million for his arrest.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte offered a bounty of 10 million pesos ($200,000) to anyone who “neutralized” Hapilon, and 5 million pesos for each of the two leaders of the Maute group, one of four factions that banded together to take the town.
Año said an estimated 100 Maute militants were holding out, and the military was checking on a report that one of its founding leaders, Omar Maute, had been killed in an air strike.
Duterte, who launched a ruthless “war on drugs” after coming to power a year ago, has said the Marawi fighters were financed by drug lords in Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea that has suffered for decades from banditry and insurgencies.
Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, said the discovery of the stash of banknotes and cheques was evidence that the militants had links to international terrorist groups. However, he said an investigation was needed to establish the facts.
It is possible that the money came from a bank that was raided on the first day of the siege. Herrera told Reuters last week that a branch of Landbank had been attacked and he had heard that one of its vaults was opened.
A four-hour ceasefire to evacuate residents trapped in the town was interrupted by gunfire on Sunday, leaving some 500-600 inside with dwindling supplies of food and water.
Officials say that 1,469 civilians have been rescued.
The latest numbers for militants killed in the battle is 120, along with 39 security personnel. The authorities have put the civilian death toll at between 20 and 38.
Asked to describe the fighting skills and training of the militants in the town, Major Rimas said: “They have snipers and their positions are well defended. Maybe they watch war movies a lot, or action pictures a lot so they borrowed some tactics from it.”