KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist Mahmud Ahmad may have been killed during the military’s “overnight” offensive on terrorist hideouts in Marawi city, southern Philippines, reports say.
CNN Philippines reported the military as saying today that 13 terrorists had been killed in overnight operations in Marawi.
Ranao joint task group deputy commander Col Romeo Brawner said lecturer-turned-militant Mahmud could be among the number.
The military is in the process of identifying those killed, he added.
Sources in Marawi told FMT that the Philippine authorities have Mahmud’s DNA sample.
FMT is still awaiting confirmation from Malaysian police on the matter.
Mahmud was tipped to succeed Abu Sayyaf militant group leader Isnilon Hapilon as the new emir-designate for the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia following Hapilon’s death in clashes with security forces.
Hapilon was killed along with Maute group founder Omar Maute during an ambush past midnight on Monday.
The military said both had been killed while trying to abandon their own men by crossing the lake in Marawi.
Mahmud is reportedly a highly respected front-line fighter, religious scholar, expert bomb-maker as well as recruiter, and was in the inner circle of both militant groups which attacked the city on May 23.
The 39-year-old is also believed to have arranged the financing for the months-long siege.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced that the city had been liberated despite ongoing operations to flush out some 20-30 “straggling” militants.
This number includes six to eight foreigners, including Mahmud, the military said.