PETALING JAYA: Malaysian militant Amin Baco may be hiding in Basilan and could recruit more Malaysians for attacks in other parts of southern Philippines if he is still alive, a former hostage says.
The Philippine authorities were earlier divided on whether Sabahan Amin was still alive and emir of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia, as claimed by an Indonesian militant captured in the besieged city of Marawi.
But the latest statements by the Philippine military indicate that the seasoned terrorist may still be alive and is one of 10 militants who could be the new leader of the terror group’s regional arm.
“Amin was definitely one of the leaders during the siege on Marawi,” college teacher Lordvin Acopio, who spent four months in captivity by the pro-IS groups which attacked Marawi, told FMT.
“I can’t say how many groups were in Marawi. Amin led one of the groups.
“Each group had 10-15 fighters, but the number depended on the size of the area they were guarding.
“If Amin is still alive, it’s possible he’ll recruit more Malaysians to join in attack plots in other parts of southern Philippines.”
Amin and others were said to be potential candidates to succeed IS’ Southeast Asia emir designate Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed last month in Marawi.
Amin, who was from Tawau, was also reported to be an expert bomb-maker, recruiter and facilitator of weapons movement between southern Philippines and the east coast of Sabah.
Malaysian counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay last week revealed Amin was Isnilon’s son-in-law, which caught analysts and experts by surprise.
Some analysts said Amin’s family relationship with Isnilon, as well as his leadership position, vast experience and network, could set him apart from the other candidates for the top post.
“If Amin is Isnilon’s son-in-law, most probably the IS’ regional leadership position was given to him after Isnilon was killed. The possibility is high,” Lordvin said.
Last month, FMT broke the news about a Malaysian teenager whom Lordvin had seen fighting troops alongside his militant father in Marawi.
FMT withheld the identity of the militant and his son, but last week, Ayob Khan revealed the boy’s name, adding that he was Amin’s son.
Lordvin, who was kidnapped on May 23, the first day of the Marawi war, said Amin and his son had access to siege leader Isnilon.
“The boy was always at Isnilon’s place if he was not at the frontline fighting with his father,” Lordvin told FMT.
“All of us hostages kept getting moved around, but wherever we were held, Isnilon was always in a building nearby and we weren’t allowed to go there.
“Not everyone could see Isnilon at his place or command centre unless they were high-ranking militants.
“I believe Amin’s son always visited his step-grandfather Isnilon at the command centre to collect firearms or to give situational reports.”
Ayob Khan had said last week that Amin’s son was still alive and probably in Basilan, the base of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon.
“If the boy is now in Basilan, then most probably Amin is also there because the duo never left each other’s side in Marawi,” Lordvin said.
“In fact, intelligence reported by the Philippine media says militants are planning attacks there and elsewhere as revenge for the loss of their caliphate in Marawi.
“Many relatives of those militants killed in Marawi are said to be doing recruitments now.”
More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, were killed in the five-month clashes between the authorities and militants who wanted to set up a so-called IS caliphate in the lake city.