MANILA, Philippines — The military is “increasingly becoming confident” that the top Malaysian terrorist who allegedly funded the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups’ attack on Marawi was among the 13 rebels killed by government troops on Wednesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año told reporters on Thursday.
“Our operations to flush out and deal with terrorist stragglers has been continuing relentlessly since yesterday (Wednesday). Last night’s operations has been very positive. We were able to neutralize 13 rebels and we confirmed this,” the military chief said.
He said the AFP was still verifying reports that among the fatalities was Islamic law professor Mahmud Ahmad, also known as Abu Handzalah, who has been in Malaysia’s most wanted list since he traveled to the Philippines in 2014 and was said to be have helped facilitate the transfer of funds from ISIS in Syria through Indonesia to the Philippines.
Among the information received by the AFP regarding Ahmad’s death came from one of the rescued hostages, who told the military that Mahmud’s remains had already been buried.
According to a July 2017 report by the Indonesia-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Mahmud sat “in the inner circle of the Marawi command structure” and also “controlled recruitment as well as financing and has been the contact person for any foreigner wanting to join the pro-ISIS coalition in the Philippines.”
It was allegedly through Mahmud that the ISIS was able to send $600,000 for the terrorist operations in Marawi.
IPAC said there were persistent but still unconfirmed stories that Mahmud had “arranged to smuggle some fighters into Marawi through the ijtema” or the four-day gathering last May of the Muslim missionary organization called Tabligh-i-Jaamat, known in Indonesia and Malaysia as Jamaah Tabligh.
According to the Philippine National Police, it was through the said ijtema that 450 members of ISIS- inspired terrorists groups were able to to allegedly enter the city of Marawi at 5 p.m. on May 23 and raise an ISIS flag at the city’s the Amai Pak Pak Medical Center. — with reports from Camille A. Aguinaldo