KOTA KINABALU: Police will investigate FMT’s report that a teenage boy is fighting government troops alongside his father, a suspected Malaysian militant, in Marawi city, southern Philippines.
FMT broke the news yesterday about the boy, aged about 13, who was witnessed by hostages fighting security forces in the besieged city.
Philippine authorities have announced that they are currently trying to determine whether the Sabahan militant father is still alive in Marawi.
“We haven’t heard of this before. Nobody told us about this, but we will investigate your report,” Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun told FMT.
“It’s possible that some family members are supportive of what the father is doing in Marawi, therefore they didn’t tell police about this development.
“We believe his father did sneak into Sabah, I think last year, but before we got to him, he got away.
“We believe he came back to visit his family. If the report about his son fighting in Marawi is true, it’s possible he’d come back to Sabah to fetch the boy,” Fuzi said.
FMT learned about the boy from a former hostage, who had been kidnapped by the pro-Islamic State militant groups when the clashes broke out in May.
“I saw him together with his son,” said the former hostage.
“I don’t know his age. 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 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.
Troops were reported to have taken fire from women and children, believed to be family members of local militants.
The teenager however, could be the first family member of a foreign fighter involved in the conflict in Marawi.
He could also be the first Malaysian minor reported to have fought alongside militants overseas.
It is believed about three Malaysians are still holed up in Marawi following the reported death of Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist Mahmud Ahmad in the besieged city this week.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte had announced Mahmud’s death, but Fuzi and Malaysia’s defence minister Hishamuddin Hussin said they are still waiting for official reports on his death from the Philippine authorities.
On Oct 17, 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 Islamic State’s 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.