The military believe that issues related to money and tactics are sowing division among the leaders of the Maute group, which is continuing to hold out in Marawi.
Speaking at a press conference in in the war-torn city, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said the Armed Forces had recieved reports of disagreements and “death trials” among the Islamic State-affiliated group’s ranks.
“Actually, their leaders are arguing because of issues of money and logistical support. We always get these reports.”
He also said that Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who is the official representative, or ‘emir’, of IS in the region, may be the cause of the tension.
“There are a lot of death trials. This Isnilon Hapilon, I believe he was one of those who started the divisiveness in their leadership.”
The crisis in Marawi has now reached its 34th day of fighting between government forces and terrorists.
An estimated 280 militants have been killed, along with 69 government troops and at least 26 civilians.
Lt. Col. Herrera said that the divisions among the leadership has seen some of the Maute slipping out of Marawi.
“What we see here is they’re really divided. In essence, these are criminals where the money they obtained, they stole, are driving them to slip away from the conflict area.”
The military is also verifying claims Hapilon has escaped from Marawi.
Lt. Col. Herrera also said there were reports that the Abu Sayyaf commander had not been seen on the ground.
“We have a process in terms of validation and verification of reports but we shall continue to secure the area in terms of employing our forces in possible gaps,” he said.
It is believed Hapilon, who has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, travelled to Marawi in a bid to unite the various Islamist factions in the Philippines, with the aim of establishing a “wilayat”, or IS caliphate, in Lanao del Sur.
However, Lt. Col. Herrera said Maute group leader Abdullah Maute was still in the city and that all possible escape routes were being secured.
He added the military is securing all possible escape routes for terrorists in the war-torn city, particularly across Lake Lanao.