President Rodrigo Duterte said on October 17 that China-made sniper rifles were the ones used to kill terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute in Marawi City, but a deputy commander of a task force in Marawi said he could not say for sure. Even the Facebook pages of Philippine troops had doubts as they got differing feedback from the soldiers on the ground.
““Libre ha? China, dalawang beses na naglipad dito … And yung sniper [rifles] nila was of great help. Yung mahaba nila na sniper. Yun ang nakakuha … yung dalawa nang madaling araw. Yun ang nakakuha, it’s a distance of about one kilometer. Isang kilometro yun eh,” Duterte said in Naga City, Camarines Sur.
President Duterte repeated his special appreciation for China for its help in ending the Marawi conflict on October 19 at the 43rd Philippine Business Conference, where Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua was also a guest.
“I would like to officially inform you, Ambassador Zhao, that the rifle that killed Hapilon was a sniper rifle made in China,” the president said.
However, the Philippine military has yet to confirm Duterte’s claim about the kind of weapon used to shoot Hapilon.
Moreover, Reuters reported how the Facebook page “Scout Ranger Books” gave a few details on how the terrorist leaders were killed on October 16. The page said that the 8th Scout Ranger Company engaged Maute militants, not knowing that two of those that they killed were Maute and Hapilon, until hostages who managed to escape told them. The Scout Rangers said they used an armored vehicle’s thermal imaging to shoot Hapilon from a gun mounted on top of it.
“Alam ng Scout Rangers at ibang units na sumusuporta sa kanila na cordon na nila ang isang grupo ng terorista pero di nila alam na sina Hapilon ito. Alas siyete ng gabi, nag deploy ng 1 team ng Scout Rangers sa dulo ng kalsada, sa may likod ng block. Kasama nila ang isang armored vehicle na may thermal capability. Isa pang team nag deploy naman sa kabilang dulo ng kalsada na pwede rin nila takasan at ganun din, may armored vehicle din,” said on the Facebook page.
“Hanggang 1:30 ng madaling araw, may tumawid. E alerto ang Ranger, boom kunana. Tumba ang isang terorista. Di nila alam, si Omar Maute na pala yun. E may pasilip silip pa din, akmang tatawid. Boom kunana, galing naman sa secondary weapon ng armored vehicle. Tumba din. Di rin alam ng Rangers na yun na pala si Isnilon Hapilon,” the page added.
“Maya maya, naglalabasan na mga babaeng hostages. Tinakbo nila at sinabi: “sir, sina Isnilon Hapilon at Omar Maute ang mga napatay niyo.” Hiyawan, sigawan lahat ng tropa! Di nila akalain na natumba na pala nila ang dalawang leader ng mga terorista.”
Reuters noted that even before President Duterte made those claims about the Chinese rifles, two soldiers from the vehicle from the armored vehicle told CNN Philippines that the weapon on it was remote controlled. A general assigned in Marawi said the weapons fixed on the vehicle are 50-calibre machine guns.
Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of a task force deployed in Marawi City, told Reuters that he could not say for sure which gun was used to shoot Maute and Hapilon since the troops used weapons made by China, the United States, and other countries.
The Facebook page “Philippines Defense Forces Forum” also said that their sources did not think the rifles used on the terrorist leaders were those from China.
“Nope, not by Chinese sniper rifle as claimed by Duterte, the consensus from sources who were part of the operation is Omar was killed by a .50 cal round from the RCWS of one of two M-113s from 14LCAT providing armor support to 8SRC. The gunner, ‘Toto’, used the thermal sight of the RCWS to aim at the limping form of Omar Maute who was wounded in a previous firefight and fired, killing him instantly with half of his head blown off,” said the page’s sources.
The Facebook page added, “Fog of war. Even the operators are not sure who hit who. Only one thing is sure, no Chinese rifle fired from 1000 meters away was involved.”
China donated Chinese-made sniper and assault rifles worth P370 million in June and another batch of rifles and ammunition early in October. The weapons during both shipments were provided to the Philippine National Police, except for the sniper rifles which were given to the military.