Is Sabahan Amin Baco new IS regional emir?


PETALING JAYA: Analysts are divided over the possibility of Malaysian militant Mohd Amin Baco being the new leader of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in Southeast Asia.

Philippine police chief Ronald de la Rosa on Monday said, based on information from a captured Indonesian terrorist last week, the Sabahan was alive and leading the pro-Islamic State stragglers in the war-torn southern Philippine city of Marawi.

The police chief also said the seasoned militant had been made the IS emir for the region.

However, the Philippine military believe Amin has been killed and have launched a search for his body.

An analyst with Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) said it made sense that Amin was the new leader.

“He is the last of the inner circle of the early Marawi planners and had joined (slain IS emir for Southeast Asia) Isnilon Hapilon in 2014,” Michael Quinones told FMT.

He said the leader of IS East Asia would have to be a Marawi siege leader.

This is instead of choosing Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Furuji Indama in Basilan or Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters leader Esmael Abdulmalik in the Ligusan marshland.

Veryan Khan, editorial director of TRAC, agreed with Quinones’ opinion on the possibility of Amin becoming the new IS leader for expediency in the field.

“More likely, those still left in the militant group in Marawi claimed him as the new leader,” she said.

“Amin will be a clear contender for an actual designation by IS Central if he survives.”

Another analyst had a different opinion on the prospect of Amin leading the terror group in the region.

Sydney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac), said Amin might have been made the leader of the militants in Marawi but this did not make him the Southeast Asia emir of IS.

She said Amin might have temporarily assumed leadership of the stragglers in Marawi, “but you can’t extrapolate from that and say that somebody is emir”.

“I’m not sure on what basis the police chief made that statement. I don’t think we have any evidence to support that.”

More than 900 militants, 145 security personnel and 47 civilians were killed in the five-month standoff in Marawi which began on May 23.

Amin is a native of Tawau and a member of the outlawed movement Darul Islam Sabah — a faction that emerged after Indonesia’s Darul Islam split from Jemaah Islamiah in 1993.

The group is said to have facilitated the passage of terrorists and firearms between the two countries.

In 1999, Amin was among the men from the Tawau cell of the Darul Islam Sabah sent to Ambon, Indonesia, where he used the alias “Hassan”.

He underwent training in Mangkutana in South Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2000 before transferring to Pendolo where “jihadis from several organisations had camps”, an Ipac report said.

In Malaysia, Amin was listed among the most wanted in 2010. He left Malaysia to join the Abu Sayyaf group, whose pro-IS faction was led by Isnilon.

He married into a family in Jolo, Sulu, in southern Philippines. His father-in-law is Hatib Sawadjaan, one of the sub-commanders of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullon Sahiron, Ipac said.