Malaysian militants see marriage as way to spread ideology, says IGP

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PETALING JAYA: Some Malaysians who are engaged in terrorist activities overseas marry local women in order to breed future fighters and spread the ideology embraced by the Islamic State terror group, FMT has learned.

This is especially true of those fighting in the southern Philippines, where they don’t face much of a language and cultural barrier. Apparently, Mahmud Ahmad, who has reportedly been killed in Marawi city, was one such Malaysian.

“We have received intelligence that says the Malaysians there have married local women, including family members of local militants, with whom they can readily communicate due to their common Malay culture and roots,” Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun told FMT.

“We’re not surprised if they take multiple wives. This is to allow them to create future generations to fight in what they believe is a jihad.”

Marawi was recently the scene of what may have been the deadliest urban battles in Philippine history. More than 900 militants, 145 security personnel and 47 civilians were killed.

A video that surfaced last month purportedly showed the body of Mahmud as well as those of other militants found under a collapsed building.

Philippines CNN reported that the video had been obtained from military sources, who told the news organisation that Mahmud’s wife was found dead beside him.

The news organisation showed the video to Marawi joint task force commander Major General Danilo Pamonag, who said one of the bodies in the clip could be that of Mahmud. “It looks like him,” he said.

The military first reported that the wanted Malaysian was killed on Oct 19. President Rodrigo Duterte and armed forces spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla confirmed his death the next day.

The news site also published a letter apparently written by Mahmud to his wife, Humaira, dated Aug 13. The letter was said to have been found among the debris.

It is not clear whether the letter was addressed to the woman buried near him or another woman.

In the letter, Mahmud expressed his love for Humaira and told her not to worry about the baby she was carrying.

“Hoping and praying we will meet them in paradise again,” he wrote, ending the letter with a drawing of a heart and a smiley.

FMT has learned from a former hostage in the Marawi siege that Mahmud had married a Filipina who was killed early during the war.

The former hostage, college teacher Lordvin Acopio, had many encounters with Mahmud and other Malaysian terrorists during his four-month captivity.

Acopio, who was kidnapped by the terrorists on the first day of the siege, said he believed the woman buried near Mahmud was his “zabaya”, or prisoner of war and servant, not yet his wife, as the military believed.

Such women, according to Acopio, can be later married by the militants, in which case they are no longer called zabayas.

He said Mahmud’s wife was killed much earlier, “just at the start of the war, around the first or second day, I think”.

“The militants said the military had killed his innocent wife,” he added.

Acopio said Mahmud probably married his Filipina wife before the war and that both had stayed in Basilan, where slain Marawi siege leader Isnilon Hapilon was from. Hapilon was said to be the Islamic State’s emir for Southeast Asia.

“I heard during my captivity that Mahmud and his wife had stayed in Manila and Zamboanga before they went to Basilan,” Acopio said, adding that he didn’t know whether they had children.

Mahmud’s body was reported to have been visually identified by former hostages. However, this has not yet been confirmed by DNA tests. Samples have been taken from his family in Malaysia.

Fuzi told FMT that Mahmud had a Malaysian wife and children, who live in Selangor.

During the five-month clash in Marawi, which started on May 23, government troops were reported to have taken fire from women and children believed to be family members of the militants.

During the early stages of the war, women snipers were reported to have played a significant role in stopping or slowing down government advances.

The military also reported that some of the female captives had married militants and fought alongside their husbands.