Maute Group: What You Need to Know

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We have answered the frequently asked questions about the Maute Group (MG). Here’s what you need to know about MG.

1. Who is the Maute Group (MG)?

The Maute Group is an Islamic State (IS)-inspired armed group operating in central Mindanao. Prior to their use of IS imagery they were known as an extortion gang and as a private armed group (PAG).

2. Who are the conveners of MG?

Omarkhayyam and Abdullah Maute founded the MG and pledged to IS in 2015. Note that pledging to IS can be done by anyone and does not indicate actual links with the IS core based in Syria and Iraq.

3. How does MG related to other threat groups in Mindanao?

As we have seen in the Marawi crisis, the Maute Group appears to have ad hoc alliances with other threat groups. A typical response of armed groups against security forces is to engage in “pintakasi”, where the objective is to seize weapons from military units—even among ideologically inconsistent groups.

4. Who is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?

ISIS was formerly Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). During the ongoing Syrian Civil War, AQI moved into Syria to fight the Assad regime. Once they gained strength in Syria, they broke away from Al Qaeda and established that they call as ISIS.

5. What is goal of ISIS?

The intent of ISIS is to impose its twisted idea of a caliphate globally. They mangle Islamic religious texts to justify their brutal regime. Their alleged caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established the caliphate from territories seized from Syria and Iraq. The ISIS so-called caliphate is not recognised by moderate Muslims.

The caliphate is divided into different “wilayahs” or provinces led by an “wali”. Each wali has a complete bureaucracy in place to exercise control over areas they occupy. A wali is provided a specific amount of financial support from the ISIS core to enable the wilayah to operate.

6. Is there a link between MG and ISIS?

The Maute Group aspires to be part of ISIS. But as they have no control over their area, they are until now denied a wilayah status.

7. How capable are these threat groups?

Their armed capabilities are similar to other armed groups in Mindanao. To date, they do not possess the more deadly capability of ISIS to produce and employ suicide attack vests and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDS).

8. Who is Isnilon Hapilon?

Isnilon Hapilon is the leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction in Basilan. He was called by some ISIS propaganda media outlets as “emir” or leader of IS-inspired militants. Note that Isnilon Hapilon was NOT declared a wali but is only considered an emir. ISIS is aware of Hapilon’s inability to control parts of Mindanao. He is not considered a “wali” and is thus not eligible to receive funding from the IS core.

There are also indications that IS core may have abandoned the wilayah model due to pressure in Syria and Iraq. Due to coalition military operations, the ISIS core’s ability to provide support to the wilayahs had been significantly reduced. Given the importance of territorial control to the ISIS leadership, their abandonment of the wilayah model indicates their increasingly weak influence in Iraq and Syria.

9. How does Isnilon Hapilon relate to ISIS and MG?

Hapilon fled to central Mindanao to link up with the Maute Group. They share the same desire to be part of ISIS.

10. What is the point of an “alliance” between these threat groups?

Hapilon was under pressure in Basilan and needed refuge from constant military operations.

11. Why are there foreign terrorists fighting alongside the Maute Group? Is this not an indication that they are a part of ISIS?

Foreign terrorists have been a security challenge for the Philippines since the 90s. Fortunately, their arrival in the country has not led to the transfer of deadlier terrorist methodologies and technology.

Pro-ISIS foreign nationals appear to have been attracted to Mindanao due to the call of ISIS propaganda. However, foreign fighter presence is not automatically a sign of ISIS link.

12. What is the likelihood of the conflict spreading outside Marawi City?

The AFP has indicated that they are in control of 90 percent of the city and are conducting mopping up operations. Government forces are doing their best to prevent the conflict from spreading outside Marawi. While precautionary measures are expected of all visitors to Mindanao, there are no escalated threats reported.

13. How long will it take for peace and order be restored in Marawi City?

The AFP has stated that they are in the mopping-up phase of the military operation. What is critical is for local government, civil society, and every Filipino citizen to contribute to post-conflict relief efforts. Continuing support should also be provided to ensure reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged parts of the city.

14. What are the wider implications of the conflict for Mindanao and Philippines?

Security forces are endeavouring to deal with the conflict swiftly to prevent its further escalation or spill-over to the rest of the country. It is critical that this crisis not be used to inflame sectarian sentiments. It is incumbent on everyone to show that collectively, we are stronger than these groups and terror will not prevail.

Background reading

Question 1
 Charmaine Deogracias (2017) “Duterte bestows ISIS status on Maute group”,
 Jonathan Head (2016) “Maute rebel group: A rising threat to Philippines”,

Question 2
 Joseph Franco (2017) “Mindanao no place for a caliphate”, /04/12/mindanao-no-place-for-a-caliphate/
 Sidney Jones (2017) “A ‘caliphate’ unlikely, but Bishop still right to focus on southern Philippines”,

Question 3
 Joseph Franco (2017) “The Maute Group: New Vanguard of IS in Southeast Asia?”,
 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (2016) “Pro-ISIS Groups in Mindanao and their links to Indonesia and Malaysia”, 2016/10/ IPAC_Report_33.pdf
 Stanford University (n.d.), Mapping Militant Organizations

Question 4
 Richard Allen Greene and Nick Thompson (2015) “ISIS: Everything you need to know”,
 RAND Corporation (.n.d.) “The Islamic State”,

Question 5
 Grame Wood (2015) “What ISIS Really Wants?”, magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/
 Christopher Reuter (2015) “Structure of Islamic State”,

Question 6
 Joseph Franco (2017) “The Battle(s) for Butig: Contextualizing the Maute Group”,
 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (2016) “Pro-ISIS Groups in Mindanao and their links to Indonesia and Malaysia”, 2016/10/ IPAC_Report_33.pdf

Question 7
 Action on Armed Violence (2017) “Understanding the Rising Cult of the Suicide Bomber: Types of SIEDs”,

Question 8
 Charlie Winter, “Has the Islamic State abandoned its Provincial model in the Philippines?” abandoned-its-provincial-model-in-the-philippines/
 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (2016) “Pro-ISIS Groups in Mindanao and their links to Indonesia and Malaysia”, 2016/10/ IPAC_Report_33.pdf

Question 9
 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (2016) “Pro-ISIS Groups in Mindanao and their links to Indonesia and Malaysia”, 2016/10/ IPAC_Report_33.pdf

Question 10
 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (2016) “Pro-ISIS Groups in Mindanao and their links to Indonesia and Malaysia”, 2016/10/ IPAC_Report_33.pdf
 Brian Jackson et al. (2005), “Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and Its Implications for Combating Terrorism” monographs/MG331.html

Question 11
 Peter Chalk, et al. (2009), “The Evolving Terrorist Threat to Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment”,
 Brian Jackson et al. (2005), “Case Studies of Organizational Learning in Five Terrorist Groups”,

Download this in PDF thru this link: SRI FAQs – Maute Group What We Need To Know



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