An Indonesian woman whose husband was a leader of Islamic State’s 2017 takeover of Marawi city in the southern Philippines was deported to Indonesia about two weeks ago and is undergoing deradicalization, security and counterterrorism sources told BenarNews.
Minhati Madrais, 39, is the widow of Omarkhayam Maute of the pro-IS Maute Group. He was killed during the five-month battle to recapture the city.
Indonesian authorities said they were investigating what role she played in the network, even as a terrorism financing expert in the Philippines described her as “the funder of the Marawi siege.”
Minhati is “currently undergoing a deradicalization program,” a senior Indonesian security official told BenarNews, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the public.
Minhati has been “very cooperative” thus far, “appears to be normal” and “tends to look innocent,” the source said, adding that there was no specific timeframe for completion of the program. “It depends on her progress.”
Authorities are “in the early stages” of investigating whether Minhati was a key person who controlled the assets and huge sums of money for the Maute Group, the source said.
Minhati’s relationship with the Maute Group is also being investigated, the source added.
An Indonesian counter-terrorism source, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason, described Minhati as “not radical.”
Those assessments contrast sharply with that of Mimi Fabe, a professor of financial terrorism and transnational organized crime at the National Police College in the Philippines.
Minhati is believed to have been a key money person for the Maute Group, controlling around 100 million to 400 million pesos (U.S. $2 million to $8.2 million) in cash and cryptocurrencies, according to Fabe.
She retains that role following her deportation, although the money is now “less,” Fabe said.
“She must have identified a Filipino conduit for terrorism financing. She may [now] use the popular way of sending money … via remittances.”
In Indonesia, she could “continue her role as a key player in terrorism financing,” Fabe said.
“If the rehabilitation program is successful, then there will be one person less in terrorism financing,” said Fabe, adding that Indonesia has an excellent program in rehabilitation.
A new partner?
Minhati met and married Omar Maute when both were students in Cairo. They have six children. Her Indonesian father is a prominent cleric who runs a religious boarding school in Bekasi, West Java, in Indonesia.
Fabe described Minhati as an educated woman who was radicalized before she moved to the Philippines.
“Being a well-educated woman, she is knowledgeable in handling money matters. During her exposure to IS foreign-trained fighters in Mindanao, she may have learned more ways to channel money,” Fabe added.
The Maute Group and the pro-IS faction of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) took over Marawi city in May 2017 and held parts of it for five months before the Philippine military regained control.
The siege of Marawi marked the most serious bid by IS to gain a foothold in Southeast Asia. Governments across the region were unnerved by the groups’ ferocity, methodical attacks and abundant logistics during the takeover.
The battle of Marawi killed more than 1,100 civilians, militants and security forces. The fighting drew foreign jihadist fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia as well as from India, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Chechnya.
Minhati was arrested in November 2017 in Iligan city in the southern Philippines and charged with the illegal possession of explosives.
During the raid on her home, police said they recovered four blasting caps, two detonating cords, and a time fuse. Minhati denied ownership of the explosive components.
In late June, a court in Iligan City dismissed charges against her of possessing explosive materials, said Joedha Nugraha, director of Protection of Citizens and Legal Entities Overseas at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Indonesian counter-terrorism source said that Minhati’s recent return to Indonesia had “yet to have an impact” on militant groups in the country.
Fabe warned that “all Indonesian pro-IS groups such as Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) would want to partner” with Minhati.
“Her successful role as the funder of the Marawi siege gives her sufficient credibility,” said Fabe.
JAD is the foremost pro-IS group in Indonesia which has been behind all the major terror attacks in Indonesia since 2016, including suicide attacks on churches and police stations in Surabaya in May 2018 carried out by families.
According to the senior Indonesian security source, “no one” from the country’s militant groups had tried to contact her.
“So far, no one [has] contacted her except for her family,” said the security source.