Arming the Maute Group in Marawi City

The Government of the Phillippines is engaged in what is increasingly becoming a much harder fight than anticipated in the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao. Numerous security forces are involved in the fight to include Philippine Infantry units, Marines, SF, and most recently U.S. Special Operations are being thrown into the fray. In addition to the local so-called Islamic State group (Maute Group) lead by two brothers, we have had much media attention focused on this entire dynamic and we haven’t taken a look at the Marawi fight yet on TFB. The International Business Times has an excellent slide show where their reporters took a number of high-resolution photographs of the fighting on the Government forces side. We’ll be examining the small arms capabilities of the government forces in a forthcoming post.

The Maute Group fighters currently appear to be working off of completely captured or illegally acquired Philippine Armed Forces weaponry. This has lead to a somewhat confusing dynamic in which both sides of a conflict are essentially using the exact same weapon systems. Of course, Kalashnikovs are used by both sides all over the MENA region, but what we are seeing here is that mostly M16s and M60s are being used by both sides almost exclusively, in addition to coming from probably many of the same armories.

This video distributed by the so-called Islamic State’s Amaq news agency is particularly useful in gaining information about the Maute group. Apart from the rifles and medium machine guns shown, of particular note is the .50 BMG M2 at the end, mounted on the technical. First of all, the mount itself appears to be improvised and not an issued piece that could have been captured. But more importantly, the reader will notice that the ‘Fifty’ is being fired a single shot at a time. This is very common among insurgent groups or poorly trained militaries armed with M2s because it is simply a case of not having completed their proper head space and timing. The heavy machine gun is perfectly capable of fully automatic fire given that it is in proper working condition and has been cared for, so there is no reason for these M2s not to be firing automatically.

In this particular photograph of one of the brothers of the group planning for the operation, Abdullah Maute and has what appears to be a Glock 19 with an extended magazine. The lack of any printed maps on the table, the fact that the organization seems to be mostly 20-somethings, and the enormous casualties the group has been taking are a testament to the poor tactical control that the group has. The fighters appear to put up stiff resistance but you can’t win an armed conflict on intestinal fortitude alone.

The M60s and M16s in use by IS all appear to be earlier models, some A1s and A2s compared to the Army and PMC’s M4s and picatinny rail mounted variants. M60s are the older variants with the bipods mounted to the longer barrels than on E3 version. These screengrabs are from the organization Terror Monitor

In this particular scene, someone has mounted a magnified optic to the carrying handle of an M4. Because this usually isn’t standard issue, this is probably an aftermarket accessory. Also notice the A2 style handguard mounted above the M203 UBGL, signifying that this might be a battlefield capture as we’ve seen several M4s and M16A2s with mounted UBGLs in use by Government forces that bear this resemblance today.

The earlier mentioned M2. A recent news source stated that “Our troops on ground zero were able to seize a sizable arms cache from the area of operation and the number of firearms numbering more than 20, if I recall, and these are not ordinary firearms but high-powered firearms”. The official might be referring to captured M2s as “high-powered” firearms. That, or M203 UBGLs.

This particular scene shows a fighter with an AR15 rifle, with a telescoping stock, optical sight, and what appears to be a 16 inch or otherwise A2 length barrel/upper profile.

An older M60, notice the bipods attached directly to the barrel, just underneath the front sight post. In addition to extremist doctrine, the Maute brothers appear to have imported time proven combat marksmanship practices of the so-called Islamic State as well. According to this source, over 240 Maute group members have been killed in almost a month of fighting, compared to less than 60 government soldiers. This must lead to a very “fluid” chain of command situation for the Maute group leaders…

Captured arms as published on the Daily Mail show a number of completely different supply channels, from black market goods, captured weapons, and even a fair amount of legally purchasable accessories and firearms.

Notice the lever action rifle, and the after-market accessories mounted on the AR15s and what appears to be an M14 in a commercial stock. The weapon left of the lever action could be an improvised suppressor, but is somewhat difficult to identify at this angle.

Filipino reporter Raffy Tima on Twitter posted these in-depth shots of various captured rifles in use by the group. Notice the Spike’s Tactical lower, and Bushmaster rifle.

Apart from the small arms threat, possibly the single worst capability that the Maute group could bring to the fight is the use of SVBIEDs, as they have been so effective in Iraq. However, given that government forces are finding massive amounts of drugs as they liberate the city, it appears that the Philipino radicals are simply not on the same fundamental playing field as their Syria based brethren.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • Caffeinated

    Interesting that all the lowers to include the Spikes have the infamous 3rd pin hole.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Hopefully it isn’t another Iver Johnson Arms/Sandinistas scenario.

  • Paul Rain

    Armed by Saudi money, as were the 9/11 terrorists, as were the terrorists who attacked the parliament of our Iranian Indo-aryan brothers.

    • jay

      It’s CIA, with help from Saudi elements.

  • Giolli Joker

    It’s Filipino. 😉
    The Maute leaders may be 2 of the brothers, both there are at least 8 brothers involved.
    The “legally purchasable accessories and firearms” have possibly been raided by the rebels from the houses of law abiding citizens.

  • Jeez Louise

    Meanwhile, the government is using this conflict to suspend legal carry in the entire island group of Mindanao in the south, while many gun owners are praising the increasingly dictatorial rule of Mr. Duterte. Indeed, it is gun owners who are the leading cheerleaders for Duterte, who is slowly but surely limiting our gun rights. Just look at the increasingly tightening decrees being released by his jack-booted thugs (go to ProGun Philippines’ facebook page).

    When fellow gun owners are cheering their eventual disarmament by the Duterte regime, we will be left unarmed and yoked by a mentally unstable megalomaniac. God help us all.

    • Giolli Joker

      What I heard was that Duterte had actually invited all people with firearm license to make extra sure of carrying the document with them if they intended to carry during the period of Martial Law in Mindanao. At the same time he was hinting the possibility of opening up personal defence laws if the situation was getting more dangerous for the population.

      My brother in law in Davao lived 30 years of his life in a city governed by Duterte and was not disarmed. He just saw a city getting safer and growing.

      • Jeez Louise

        Bullcrap, seeing as Davao has had a virtual ban on legal carry since Duterte came to power.

        If Duterte is pro-gun, then why has he and his minions continue to tighten gun laws against law abiding citizens, not criminals?

        If Duterte is pro-gun, then why did he say in a recent gun show in Davao that he wanted to ban over-the-counter sale of ammunitions and to restrict its eventual purchase to 20 rounds per gun?

        If Duterte is pro-gun, then why did he ban the previously lawful ownership of “high-powered” firearms (such as the AR) by security groups? Why did he also ban the sale of 5.56 ammo even by civilians who have legally owned AR rifles?

        If Duterte is pro-gun, then why did he suspend lawful carry in the entire Island of Mindanao, when Marawi City is just one little town in that huge island?

        If Duterte is pro-gun, then why, despite courting gun owners with empty promises like the one you regurgited above, did he never tell his ass-licking congress to repeal the GUN CONTROL ACT OF 2012 (RA 10591)?

        Duterte is a dictator. Dictators have never had a good history with civilian gun ownership, just look at the history of fascism and socialism in the past century. Do not be fooled by Duterte. He will grab all the power for himself (which Speaker/Asskisser Alvarez is only too eager to give), and he will do it by first disarming the populace.

        So yeah, screw Duterte and the stupid gun owners who support him.

        • iksnilol

          Also screw him for, y’know, murdering people.

          • Jeez Louise

            Among others, of course. He is pure evil.

          • Giolli Joker

            Don’t base your view on him on International media.

          • iksnilol

            No, of course not. But you can’t ignore murder and encouragment of murder. Or is it okay in your eyes to murder people as long as they’re addicts?

            Because that’s f***ed up.

          • Giolli Joker

            Addicts are mostly warned, suppliers are warned and eliminated if the warning is ignored. He took a city from hell hole to safe, a city where my wife witnessed the change… I look at results.

          • iksnilol

            Not really, gunned down ain’t warned, it’s war.

            And you Italians should be careful about wanting results. Mussolini got the traibs running on time, y’know.

          • Giolli Joker

            I’m talking of something that I know from close, not read online. I know of people warned, I know of pushers gunned.
            Duterte isn’t so far a Mussolini: he has popular support and zero control on national media. Will he turn in a dictator?
            let’s see…

          • iksnilol

            Oh yeah, you got that anecdata, I should back off then. Hail Duterte!

          • Giolli Joker

            And what have you got? The reports of those who blame every single violent death in Ph to Duterte? The claims of human rights association leaders managing drug lords in Philippines biggest prison? Visit the Philippines, talk to the people. Anyway, we’re way too Off Topic here…

          • iksnilol

            Oh, what’s that behind your ear? What’s uncle iksnilol gonna find behind your ear? OH THERE IT IS, A CREDIBLE SOURCE:


            And a report made on it:

            I don’t want to be one who stereotypes people, but that facism thing, you got a knack for it.

          • Giolli Joker

            More towards a Machiavellian approach than fascist.
            However it’s a one to one discussion, I already said where we can take it without keeping on dumping politics in this blog, if you want.

          • Jeez Louise

            The ends do not justify the means IMO. Addicts are people too. But to Dictator-in-Chief, they’re like zombies, walking meatbags that must be killed lest they infect you with their disease.

            Duterte is indeed a dictator. A dictator is someone who unilaterally dictates policies and laws without needing to confer with Congress or the Supreme Court. And look at Duterte’s regime. He has bullied the senate to be his lapdog (no need to bully Congress since its full of asskissers like Alvarez). He has made threats against the SC to tow the line. Duterte is already consolidating power to flow exclusively through his office. He does not want to share power with the two other branches of government, nor does he want the checks and balances that go with them. That is the essence of dictatorship.

            And like I’ve posted here elsewhere, he is going after our guns.

          • martyrdom

            You are simply give as a hint your ARE AN ADDICT, All these strict rules are because of crime, I for one would safe the lives of the innocents than these addict, now stop f*ck*ng Duterte’s reputation with you no brainer opinion about license firearm.

        • Giolli Joker

          Interesting points. I don’t see him as a dictator but I don’t know how much he is pro or anti gun. Wrong platform to discuss politics though. If you want to go more in details, my nickname @ zoho dot com.

  • Tassiebush

    I’m curious about whether this mob are re-branded Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)? I recall seeing a documentary about them and various articles and they certainly acquired lots of weapons through corrupt army members. Lots of guns with filed off serial numbers and also some wacky extended ar15 mags and grenade launchers. I think the m14s were often norinco ones.

  • Bruce Abbott

    I spent some time working in Mindanao a couple of years ago, staying in Davao and traveling 35km south to work at a new power-plant. We passed numerous small mosques on the drive, and passed thru an Army checkpoint each way.
    I was struck by the condition of the soldiers’ weapons; they were early M16A1s, similar to the rifles I shot in the USCGR, but were in abominable condition. The finish was nearly gone from the receivers, and I saw several with butt-stocks cracked due to corrosion of the buffer/spring tubes underneath. The uniforms, however, were immaculate.
    It reminded me of my time in the CG, where my uniform kit cost more than the weapons I carried, old 1911A1s and cast-off M16A1s (we went straight from the M1 Garand to the M16; my coxswain was a member of the Honor Guard and could flog a Garand with the best of them).
    The locals didn’t have too much concern about the rebels; 4-wheeling in the hills was a big thing, with surplus Humvees and ersatz Jeeps being very common. Their read was the rebels were too doped up to be a serious threat. Looks like that has changed…

    • Jeez Louise

      Those were probably US Gov’t hand-me-downs M16s from Vietnam. Until recently, they’re still somewhat of a common sight. Then Duterte the tyrant confiscated them from private security companies. And some people (see below) still insist that Duterte isn’t after our guns.

      Speaking of power plants, I often visit a few power plants in Luzon for business and they’re usually guarded by local militias (CAFGU) with pretty good condition M14s. Even the wood stocks look well-maintained. I hear that communist rebels would raid these power plants and burn stuff so they started hiring CAFGU militias as security guards.

      Which power plant in Mindanao, if you don’t mind my asking.

  • jay

    CIA has been arming 99% of the terrorist organizations on the planet.
    Duerte said he’s talking with China and goes in visit in Russia and all of a sudden “ISIS” starts a war.
    You can’t get more convenient than this…..Oh. actually you can. Two years ago , Assad called UN inspectors to check for chemical weapons. The same day, ten kilometers away from the inspectors there’s a chemical attack, blamed on Assad.

    • Brett baker

      Your belief in the compentcy of the CIA makes me think you either don’t know what you’re talking about or work for them.

  • USMC03Vet

    Like most countries suffering under diversity these days this sadly is nothing new and is simply the same issues reappearing once again because contrary to modern belief the whole tolerance concept isn’t held by all.

    • D. Spencer

      The Muslims had been there before the Spaniards came along and started to convert everyone.

      • Jeez Louise

        And the animists and even Hindus and Buddhists were there before the Muslims started conquering the land and forcing conversion at the end of the sword. Believe me, it was no cake walk when those Jihadis were killing my ancestors from the Northern regions.

        • D. Spencer

          End of a sword? It was no more forceful compared to Christian conversions. The closest thing would be the conquests made by rival kingdoms.

  • Vitsaus

    Weird, I don’t see any 1911’s in the mix.

  • I guess the Islamic State read enough Nathaniel F. pieces to know that the AR15 in 5.56mm is the best assaul/modern sporting rifle. Hopefully, Roddy “Rowdy” Duterte will crush them all the same.

  • John

    Um, Miles?

    That piece of paper underneath Abdullah Maute’s hands appears to be a tactical homemade map, with updates made in real time. Not as durable as a regular printed map, but also not as outdated in the middle of a warzone. You know, because certain streets may no longer exist, etc.

    You, uh… might want to keep the laughing at insurgent groups to a minimum. Humans have a tendency to adapt, endure and overcome.

    • .45

      I dunno, 240 vs 60 isn’t exactly adapting, enduring and overcoming that well…

  • Dan

    I still wonder how is it that an entire post about the AR180 was taken down because it showed IRA “propaganda” and a few Brits got their panties in a bunch, yet posts on ISIS and the variois other extremists are fine? Did i miss the part where the IRA leveled two skyscrapers? Dumped thousands of bodies in mass graves and took over larges areas of multiple countries while commiting acts that make the IRA look like a local group of mall ninjas?
    If we’re gonna be easily offended lets at least be consistent.
    Yes im still pissed the AR180 post was pulled.

    • john huscio

      The IRA killed a shitload of people between 1916 and 1990. I wouldn’t make the choir boy comparison, even against al queada/isis.

      • Mike

        And the US killed 100,000 people in Hiroshima, you could go on all day.
        Re-post the AR-180 article, if the brits cry again then post an article on how they incinerated 25,000 people in Dresden.

        • Veloxto

          The who killed more argument is truly a fruitless exercise and a rabbit hole that is best left avoided.

  • Rocco Mapua

    Filipino, not Philippino, though we live in the Philippines, we are Filipino.