KOTA KINABALU: A teenage boy is fighting alongside his Malaysian militant father, who is believed to be the leader of the remaining militants in Marawi city, southern Philippines, FMT has learned.
A former hostage, kidnapped in May, told FMT he used to play with the boy and recognised his father.
“I saw him together with his son,” said the former hostage.
“I don’t know his age, maybe he’s around 13. He’s small but he’s carrying a gun already. He was involved in fighting the troops.
“I used to play with his son sometimes and they were always together and the authorities here confirmed that the boy was the son of the Malaysian militant.”
The exchanges with the Malaysian militant and his son took place before the former hostage was rescued in September.
The teenage boy could very well be the individual Malaysian police earlier told FMT they had nicknamed “Pendek”, the Malay word for “short”.
Troops were earlier reported to have taken fire from women and children, believed to be family members of local militants.
The teenage boy however would be the first family member of a foreign fighter reported in Marawi.
The Philippine military is currently investigating whether Malaysian militant Mohd Amin Baco is still alive in Marawi which has endured attacks by Islamist radical fighters since May.
A source earlier today told FMT Amin was one of about three Malaysian combatants believed to be still 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 the state’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 very likely spoke the local language fluently.
On Oct 17, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte announced the city was liberated of terrorist elements even as ongoing operations to nab 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.