Marawi siege: ISIS militants desecrate and burn Christian churches
In a video published by the Amaq News Agency, Islamist fighters were seen smashing a Jesus Christ sculpture and burning the whole church in Marawi City. The Maute fighters, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, have taken control of part of the Muslim-majority city and have challenged the Philippine government's territorial control for the first time, Al Masdar News detailed.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Marines recovered 52.2 million pesos in cash from a vault inside a house near Mapandi bridge in Marawi while doing their clearing operations on June 5. They also discovered several checks amounting to 27 million pesos, CNN Philippines reported.
In addition, Task Force Marawi spokesperson Jo-Ar Herrera revealed that they recovered an M-16 rifle and other firearms in the house. The money and the checks were endorsed to the Joint Task Force Marawi after the inventory. According to the Marines, the Maute used the abandoned house as a "machine gun nest."
Herrera said an investigation will be launched to determine the owner of the house and the details surrounding the cash and the checks they recovered. Marine Major Rowan Rimas also mentioned the possibility that a Maute member owns the house because the militant group controlled it before the government troops took over.
"The Maute group, they have defensive positions. They have a very capable group. But the recovery of those millions of cash indicate that they are running, because the government troops are pressing in," said Major Rimas, who added that some of the checks were "paid to cash." This could reflect that the ISIS-affiliated group is trying to escape.
Marawi City used to be home to around 200,000 Filipinos, but now, only around 2,000 remain in the city and are unable to leave due to the ongoing clashes between the government and the Maute fighters. The death toll from the siege has now reportedly climbed up to 180.
The clashes in Marawi prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao and suspend the writ of habeas corpus starting May 24. The Maute group has reportedly been protecting their local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon who is allegedly planning to establish a caliphate in Lanao del Sur.