KUALA LUMPUR: Sabahan Mohd Amin Baco has been reported to be the new emir of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in Southeast Asia but his whereabouts are still being established by Philippine authorities.
Philippine police chief Ronaldo de la Rosa said Amin, 31, replaced Isnilon Hapilon as the new emir after the Abu Sayyaf group leader was killed on Oct 16.
“Amin Baco is now the leader, not just of the remaining Maute but as emir of Southeast Asia IS,” de la Rosa was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.
The police chief was referring to the group which is believed to be still holed up in Marawi. The Maute along with their Abu Sayyaf counterparts laid siege on Marawi city on May 23.
De la Rosa said the latest information on Amin was obtained from Indonesian militant Muhammad Ilham Syahputra who was captured while trying to flee Marawi last week.
Philippine national police deputy chief of operations Fernando Mendez was today reported by CNN Philippines as saying Amin is the longest-staying foreign terrorist in the country.
He said Amin was trained by fellow Malaysian Zulkifli Hir alias Marwan who was killed during the 2015 botched Mamasapano operation.
After official termination of military operations against the militants in Marawi on Oct 23, there were reports indicating that Amin could have been among the 42 bodies recovered after the “final standoff” where remaining militants were cornered by troops in a building. Other reports said he could have escaped.
De la Rosa today said there is a possibility Amin could have escaped but declined to give details.
Security expert Rommel Banlaoi told the Singapore daily that Amin presents a bigger threat than Hapilon or Mahmud Ahmad, Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist, who was reported to have been killed in Marawi.
“Mahmud was regarded more as an ideologue and organiser than a battlefield commander.
“Amin, on the other hand, has had long experience in fighting a guerilla war. He is also adept at making bombs, a knowledge he has passed on to many recruits,” Banlaoi said.
The military last week said they are verifying Ilham’s claim that there were some 39 militants still holed up in the city.
FMT yesterday learned from a source that this number could include Malaysians and Indonesians.
Straits Times said besides Amin, the authorities are also hunting for 42-year-old Malaysian Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee who had earlier been reported killed, and an Indonesian known as Qayyim.
FMT last month reported that a Malaysian teen had been seen by hostages fighting alongside his militant father in Marawi.
Malaysian police chief Mohd Fuzi Harun confirmed to FMT that the militant father had returned home to Malaysia in 2015 or 2016 to pick up his son, now aged approximately 13, and took him to Marawi.
So far, despite FMT’s request for information, the Philippine authorities are still mum on the teenager, who could be the first foreign minor involved in the Marawi war.
More than 1,100 people, mostly militants, were killed in the five-month clashes in Marawi.