KOTA KINABALU: The Philippine military is investigating whether an alleged militant from Malaysia, Mohd Amin Baco, is still alive in the besieged city of Marawi which has endured attacks by Islamist radical fighters since May.
A security source told FMT that Amin was one of three Malaysian combatants believed to have remained in the southern Philippine city following the reported death of top Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad earlier this week.
ABS CBN News today reported Philippine military spokesman Maj Gen Restituto Padilla Jr describing Amin, who hails from Sabah, as a “prominent terrorist leader” and “commander”.
It is understood that remnants of “straggling” Islamic State (IS)-linked militants, including Malaysians and Indonesians, are still holed up in the main battle zone in the city with operations underway to flush them out.
Amin was reported to have been a member of the outlawed Darul Islam Sabah group in Sabah’s coastal district of Tawau.
He and fellow Sabahan Jeknal Adil, who was reportedly killed, have been identified in reports as being bomb makers for the militants.
Amin and Jeknal left Malaysia to join the Abu Sayyaf terror group, which pledged allegiance to the IS in 2010.
They were reported to have used the Abu Sayyaf’s hideouts in Basilan and Jolo islands in southern Philippines as bases for IS operations in Southeast Asia.
The source said it would not be surprising if the Philippine military believed Amin was a leader of the remaining fighters in Marawi as he had become accustomed to the region and may even speak the local language fluently.
On Oct 17, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte announced the city was liberated of terrorist elements even as ongoing operations to get the remaining militants were taking place.
The announcement came after the killings of the IS’ emir-designate for Southeast Asia and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, co-founder of the Maute militant group, after midnight that day.
Both the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups were reported to be responsible for the protracted siege on the city.
More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, have been killed in clashes between the militants and government troops.