Woman says Maute child warrior could be her missing son

ILIGAN CITY—A woman said she may have found her long-lost son, who disappeared seven years ago, after seeing a social media photo of alleged child warriors of the Maute terrorist group.

Rowhanisa Abdul Jabar, resident of Tondo, Manila, said she was stunned upon seeing the Facebook photo in question, which showed three teenage boys brandishing high-powered firearms.

One of the boys, she said, had eerie similarities with her son Azramie, who was abducted when he was only three on July 4, 2010 at their rented apartment in Manila.

A househelp named Ula Urada was arrested in connection with the boy’s disappearance, though her other accomplices remain at-large.

Authorities said the Maute terrorist group has been known to use child warriors in their months-long siege of Marawi City.

Last month, a captured 17-year-old Maute member said that as part of their training, child warriors are asked to perform beheading before they can “graduate.”

Faisal (not his real name) said he has been training with the group since he was 10 years old.

Jabar appealed to the military to bring the child, whom she believed to be her son, alive.

“It’s difficult to attain closure with this kind of situation, that’s why I had mixed emotions when I saw that picture,” she said in a phone interview.

She added that she was torn between feeling happy with the prospect of reuniting with her son, and at the same time sad if she finds out that her child is a terrorist.

Army Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Group Ranao, said Maute’s use of child warriors has brought challenges to government troops in their drive to flush out the group’s remaining members from Marawi.

“Our soldiers have a soft spot for young fighters, but they are forced to shoot them when they get violent with their arms,” Col. Brawner said.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, blasted the Maute group for using children in warfare, describing the practice as “un-Islamic.”

“This is illegal, immoral and anti-Islamic. Pero so far, wala pang mga magulang (na nag-identify na anak nila ang mga nasa pictures) na lumalapit sa atin upang magpatulong,” Adiong said. Divina Suson/PNA-northboundasia.com