Dead or alive? Hunt is on in Marawi for Malaysia's most wanted terrorist

Dead or alive? Hunt is on in Marawi for Malaysia's most wanted terrorist

Marawi bodies 7
Forty bodies were buried on Oct 5 after being retrieved from the battle field throughout the previous month. (Photo: Jack Board)

KUALA LUMPUR: Philippine troops in Marawi City are hunting down a Malaysian militant who helped to finance the months-long siege of the southern Philippine city by pro-Islamic State groups.

It is unclear, however, if Mahmud Ahmad if still alive, even as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated on Tuesday (Oct 17).

A regional security source told Channel NewsAsia that Mahmud is believed to be dead after being killed by the Philippine military during operations two days ago to clear the city’s battle area of remaining terrorists.

Philippine military officials, however, have not confirmed Mahmud’s death. Last June, the military had said Mahmud was killed, only to have him resurface weeks later.

“Dr Mahmud is believed to be dead. (Freed) hostages said he died two days ago. The military is searching for his body right now,” the source told Channel NewsAsia.

“Dr Mahmud was badly wounded in the face. His last known coordinates were in the main battle area in Marawi city, holed up together with 20 to 25 hostages as well as some family members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.

“Another Malaysian militant, Mohd Amin Baco and one Indonesian were also with him,” added the source.

There are no details on the fate of the Amin Baco and the Indonesian.

Smoke billows from destroyed buildings after government troops fired mortars at an Islamic State
Smoke billows from destroyed buildings after government troops fired mortars at an Islamic State position in Marawi AFP/Ferdinandh CABRERA

MAHMUD AHMAD: THE BRAIN BEHIND REGIONAL TERROR FACTIONS

The Marawi siege was launched by Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group’s IS faction, together with the Maute Group which is led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute.

Isnilon and Omar were both killed in combat, announced the Philippine Defence Secretary on Monday. The fate of Abdullah Maute is unknown.

“Mahmud is believed to have been together with Isnilon and Omar based on monitoring of their communications,” said the regional source. He gave no details as to whether Mahmud was in the same spot when Isnilon and Omar were were killed.

According to the military, Mahmud channeled US$600,000 and recruited men for the Marawi attack that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 residents.

Displaced families stay at an evacuation centre outside the city, as army troops continue their ass
Displaced families stay at an evacuation centre outside the city, as army troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi city, Philippines, July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Mahmud, 39, holds a doctorate in religious studies and was a university lecturer in Kuala Lumpur. He was Hapilon's second-in-command in the IS' Southeast Asia "caliphate", according to a July report by Indonesia-based Institute of Policy Analysis and Conflict (IPAC).

In June, a senior Malaysian intelligence official told Channel NewsAsia that Mahmud was highly dangerous and that he was the brains behind the Maute and IS factions of the Abu Sayyaf groups.

Together with Isnilon Hapilon, he had planned to set up an IS territory.

Mahmud is also known to have recruited and arranged for the passage of Malaysians to Syria to join IS, including the country’s first suicide bomber, Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki.

He fled Malaysia for southern Philippines in 2014 along with two other associates, after receiving word that the police were after him.

Source: CNA/aa

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