KOTA KINABALU: Filipino militant leader Abdullah Maute, who is wanted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), has been confirmed dead, Philippine media reported.
Philippine armed forces chief Eduardo Ano was quoted as saying that Abdullah, co-founder of the Maute group which has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (IS), was confirmed to have been killed.
According to Malaya Business Insight, Ano said the death of Abdullah and two of his brothers, Maddie and Otto, was confirmed by accounts from a Maute member who had surrendered and three other militants who were captured.
However, Ano did not provide details on the circumstances of their deaths, though previous unconfirmed reports stated that Abdullah had died in an airstrike last month.
“Based on the custodial debriefing of those captured and who surrendered, only one brother, Omar Maute, is alive. Abdullah, Maddie and Otto are reported dead.
“There are other Maute siblings (reported to be dead also) who are not that prominent inside Marawi city but we feel they are not significant,” said Ano.
Pressed if the deaths of the three Maute brothers had been validated, Ano said: “Yes, I believe,” Malaya Business Insight further said.
“There are two main groups now left in Marawi. One is led by Isnilon Hapilon and is mostly composed of those who came from Basilan. The other group is led by Omar Maute,” he said.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported Ono as confirming Abdullah’s death.
However, Esscom chief Hazani Ghazali said they had not received confirmation from their Philippine counterparts on the death of Abdullah.
“The Philippine security forces are expecting to capture the city back soon,” he told FMT.
Abdullah, who founded the Maute group with Omar, is wanted by Esscom for cross-border crimes.
Isnilon is emir-designate of IS for Southeast Asia and leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, which is fighting troops along with their Maute counterpart. Isnilon is also on Esscom’s list of wanted people.
It was reported that the area in Marawi city left to be captured by troops is about 10ha. The military is preparing for its final push to retake the city.
It is feared that the offensive by the Philippine security forces to liberate Marawi city may cause militants to flee to other areas, including the east coast of Sabah.
Esscom is on the alert for this possibility.
Ano was reported as saying that about 10 foreign fighters, mostly Malaysians and Indonesians, were still holed up in Marawi.
They are believed to include Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist, Mahmud Ahmad, who Ano said had arranged for a multi-million peso money transfer from the IS to fund the attack on Marawi.