KUALA LUMPUR: Emotions are running high amongst insurgents in the Philippines after the death of Cayamora Maute, the patriarch of the pro-Islamic State Maute Group which laid siege to Marawi City in May.
Maute, 67, died of illness on Sunday (Aug 27) after being rushed to hospital from prison. He was arrested in June at a checkpoint in Davao City, a month after fierce fighting broke out in Marawi. His sons, Omarkhayam Romato Maute and Abdullah Maute, are leaders of the Maute Group.
“Emotions are high within the group and family. The death is being used to rally relatives, especially those still active in the MILF for support,” a Filipino scholar who studies insurgents told Channel NewsAsia.
“Cayamora was an MILF commander and his death is used to attract more recruits,” added the scholar.
The MILF refers to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philipines' largest insurgent group. It has condemned the fighting in Marawi where Islamic States' (IS) black flags were raised and civilians beheaded.
As the largest insurgent group which controls territory, MILF is seen as a crucial factor in stemming the flow of militias joining IS.
However, according to Professor Zachary Abuza of the National War College in a recent opinion piece, the militias have also been able to win over some defectors from the mainstream MILF whose negotiations for a peace process with the government has been on indefinite hold since January 2015.
“The MILF leadership is looking very old and discredited to a new generation of frustrated and angry Moro youth,” Prof Abuza wrote in a piece that appeared in the BenarNews news portal.
“The MILF is unable to stem the exodus of members who are joining pro-IS militants and must now compete for young recruits,” added Abuza who specialises in Southeast Asia insurgencies and politics.
Asked whether Cayamora's death will trigger anger and suspicions against the government, the Filipino scholar said: “It is happening. Cayamora is an ideologue so his ideology, more than anything else, will move this (fighting) further."
According to the scholar, Cayamora believed in setting up a moderate Islamic state.
A regional security official told Channel NewsAsia that the Maute brothers would probably be "more fierce" due to the death of their father. "They would put the blame on the Philippines government for sure,” he said.
Cayamora Maute, according to the military, funded and provided logistical support for his sons’ activities. It is also believed that the patriarch was involved in drug deals and used the proceeds to buy weapons.
“Without that, they (Maute) cannot buy firearms, ammunitions and other war material,” said the security official.
However, the scholar dismissed those suggestions, saying it was more probable that the Mautes received funds from groups involved in illegal drugs.
“Cayamora does not appear to have directly dealt with drugs. He has 14 children who are accomplished, doctors etc … and would not risk the family,” said the scholar.
“Their lifestyle is not of that of a 'drug lord' unlike local personalities and families who are publicly known as drug dealers and live a luxurious life. But they (Maute) receiving funds from groups involved in illegal drugs is not discounted,” the scholar added.
MAUTE GROUP'S FUNDING, LOGISTICAL SUPPORT NOT AFFECTED: ANALYST
The Institute for Policy Analysis for Conflict (IPAC) does not expect Cayamora’s death to have any impact on the Maute Group.
“I don’t think it will have a major impact one way or another ... When he (Cayamora) was arrested, operations went on. The leadership was being provided by his sons. I don’t think he was playing a significant role when he was arrested,” said Sidney Jones, director of IPAC.
The Maute Group’s funding and logistical support are also expected to continue unfettered by Cayamora’s death as financing for the group is well in place, Jones added.
“The logistics had already been assembled. The financing was already in place. I think the mother was much more important then the father in terms of the logistics,” she explained.
His wife, Farhana Maute, is an accomplished businesswoman in the contracting business.
In a July report, IPAC said funding for the Marawi operations “came directly from IS’ central (Syria) as well as local sources.”
According to IPAC, the Philippines military said US$600,000 was chanelled to the group via Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad who is aligned with the Abu Sayaf Group’s pro-IS faction.
Jones believes there will be a slow dispersal of Marawi fighters to other parts of Mindanao island.
“Recruitment will continue even if the Marawi siege is contained,” said the scholar.
Maute’s death comes one week after IS released a new slick video calling for Muslims from across Southeast Asia to go to Marawi to wage jihad, worrying security officials across the region.
Malaysia's top counter-terror cop, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, called the video “powerful and dangerous” which would excite and provoke young, fanatical Muslim men to go to Marawi, saying it was a problem for the entire Southeast Asia region.