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Philippines insurgency

Philippines says top Malaysian militant killed in Marawi, but ‘there will be more’

Mahmud Ahmad was a former lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Malaya who travelled to the Philippines to link up with militant groups

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 8:40am

A top Malaysian terrorist, who allegedly conspired with Filipino militants to create an Islamic caliphate in the southern Philippines, has been killed in a military operation in Marawi City, a military spokesman said on Friday.

“He died during the assault of our troops the other night, where 12 other rebels died,” Major General Restituto Padilla told reporters.

Padilla said Mahmud Ahmad’s death was witnessed by one of the hostages held by the militants, but authorities had not yet recovered his body.

Mahmud is a former lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Malaya who joined Islamic State and then travelled to the Philippines to link it up with the Abu Sayyaf and Maute militant groups.

Authorities suspect he played a key role in financing the two groups’ siege in Marawi that began on May 23, triggering nearly five months of fighting that has claimed the lives of nearly 900 militants, more than 160 soldiers and police and dozens of civilians.

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Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of Maute leaders, were killed on Monday, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte on the following day to declare Marawi City “liberated from terrorist influence”.

Hapilon’s death led to media speculation that Mahmud was poised to become the new leader of the Islamic State faction in Marawi, owing to his financing, recruiting and weapons experience, his global connections and the respect he commands among the local militants.

Padilla said that of the more than 20 foreigners who joined the local militants at the outset of the siege, a dozen or so have since been killed.

He said that with Islamic State’s loss of large swathes of territory in the Middle East in recent months, “we see that their influence will continue to wane and their ability to put up sizeable forces to control and gain hold of territories will almost be nil.”

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“There still remains a threat from this group, but not in the magnitude that we have seen in the Middle East, nor in the scale by which we have confronted Marawi,” he added.

On Thursday, Malaysia’s state-run news agency Bernama quoted Inspector General Mohamad Fuzi Harunhe, the head of the Royal Malaysian Police, as saying: “We will be in touch with Philippines security forces to get detailed information on Mahmud Ahmad’s reported death in Marawi City.”

On Friday, however Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters he had “not received confirmation from our intelligence”.

In any case, he said: “There will be more Dr Mahmuds. Don’t think that is the end of the day.”