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AFP denies Maute presence in Lanao

By: Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Francis T. Wakefield

The Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday denied the presence of 300 armed members of the Maute Group in Lanao del Norte.

Reports have said that around 300 members of the Maute Group were able to sneak out of war-torn Marawi City and fled to Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla dismissed the reports, calling them mere propaganda of the enemy as it would be impossible for the military not to notice such large number.

“Mahirap hindi mapansin ‘yung 300. Kung merong 300 na sinasabi niyo. Mapapansin kaagad ‘yan at maaaksyunan kaagad,” Padilla said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing yesterday. “Kaka-check lang po natin sa ating mga tauhan doon.

Wala po silang ganyang balita doon,” he added.

Padilla said the reports may be part of the disinformation or propaganda of the enemy who is getting weaker by the day. “Maaaring ‘yan ay parte ng disimpormasyon na ikinakalat ng naiipit ng kalaban,” he said.

He acknowledged that some members of the Maute Group may have been able to sneak out of Marawi by blending in with the evacuees.

“Hindi po natin dine-deny na maaaring merong iilan na nakalusot sa patuloy na pag-alis ng ilang mga evacuees sa Marawi papunta sa ibang karatig lugar tulad ng Iligan at Cagayan de Oro,” Padilla said.

“So itong mga individual na ‘to, maaaring nakalusot at hindi sila naproseso at nakita na maaaring naging miyembro.”

Meanwhile, combat operations conducted by the Joint Task Force Basilan under Col. Juvymax Uy resulted in the recovery yesterday of a Vietnamese crewman held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group for more than seven months.

Hoang Vo, a crew member of MV Royal 16, was recovered by operating troops at the Sumisip-Ungkaya Pukan Complex following an airstrike launched against the group of Furudji Indama in Basilan at around 8:30 a.m.

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