PETALING JAYA: An Indonesian terrorist arrested in the besieged southern Philippine city of Marawi may have been radicalised in Malaysia, FMT has learned.
Muhammad Ilham Syahputra was detained while trying to flee Marawi in November after military efforts to retake the city from Islamic State (IS)-affiliated groups officially ended.
“It’s possible that Ilham was radicalised while working in Malaysia,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told FMT.
“The authorities are trying to determine this,” said the source without giving more details.
It is not clear whether Ilham was self-radicalised.
The 22-year-old from Medan, West Sumatra, was one of seven Indonesians on the Philippine’s wanted list for suspected terrorist acts in Marawi, the capital city of Lanao del Sur province.
It was initially reported that he had been killed in June.
Ilham was trying to escape Marawi when he was detained and found to have in his possession ammunition, a .45 calibre handgun, a grenade, money and improvised explosive devices. His passport was found by the military in April in the city.
The Philippine authorities said Ilham had been a drone operator for the terror groups and was tasked with monitoring the movement of government troops in Marawi.
He also admitted to the authorities that he had been a drone operator for the Maute group, one of the groups responsible for the Marawi siege, during the April attack on Piagapo city, also in Lanao del Sur province.
Ilham told Philippine police investigators that Malaysian militant from Sabah, Amin Baco, was the new leader of IS following the death of the group’s emir-designate for Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon.
The Philippine military had refuted the claim at that time but later admitted that Ilham’s assertion might have been true.
He also told the authorities he had operated the drone for Amin during the attack on Piagapo city.
Indonesian news site Kumparan quoted his sister, Atika, as saying Ilham had gone to Malaysia in 2014 and worked with an air cargo company.
During his two-year stay in Malaysia, Ilham regularly contacted his family in Indonesia but then things changed in 2016, the report said.
His sister said Ilham had left Medan again in December 2016 and there had been no news from him since March, a month before the Piagapo attack.
Atika said she did not know where Ilham lived or worked but he had told her he would send money home.
FMT has contacted the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities for confirmation on the matter and is still waiting for comments.