By Aaron Recuenco and Francis Wakefield
Malaysian terrorist bomb maker Amin Bacoalias Jihad has reportedly been designated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as emir in its Southeast Asia caliphate replacing slain Abu Sayyaf kidnap leader Isnilon Hapilon.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said this information was divulged by Indonesian Maute fighter Muhammad Syahputra who was arrested in Marawi City last week while trying to escape from the main battle area where he fought with the Maute Group against government troops.
“Amin Baco is not only the leader of the remaining stragglers in Marawi City but also for the Southeast Asia because Isnilon Hapilon was the former emir and now he (Baco) has assumed the position of Hapilon as emir of the Southeast Asia ISIS,” said Dela Rosa.
Hapilon was killed along with Omar Maute last month, marking the end of the Marawi City siege which started on May 23.
Dela Rosa said they are still determining the number of remaining stragglers in Marawi City since a lot happened since Syahputra parted ways with what he said were about 40 remaining Maute fighters hiding in the ruins of Islamic city.
12 stragglers killed
Security forces engaged remaining Maute fighters in a gunfight Sunday killing at least 12.
Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao said among those killed was Ibrahim Maute alias Abu Jamil, a cousin of Omar and Abdulah.
“Government troops are still on the lookout for more possible terrorists-stragglers in the main battle area. Thus, the military is warning the public that the main battle area is still off limits because of the danger posed by terrorist-straggler,” Brawner said.
Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., expressed belief that Baco is among those killed.
“Ang nakita ko si (What I saw is) Amin Baco. He is now inside the main battle area and yesterday the ground commanders have reported to me that there are body counts there in the areas where they are hiding. And we believe that hopefully is asi Amin Baco at saka iyung Mahalam, an Indonesian and Abdullah Hapilon, the son of Isnilon. Iyonang pinaka-hinahanapnatin (we are looking for them),” Galvez said.
“I gave the direction to our ground commanders that once we get Amin Baco we (will) already break the chain of the Maute Isis and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao,” he added.
“We have some suspicion that they are already dead kasi ang pagkakaano po sa amin ay merong walo ngang body count nanandun sa loob (what we were told is that there are eight bodies inside) and when the Scout Rangers and 55th Infantry Battalion made the clearing, more or less there are still four bodies that were retrieved inside),” he said
Galvez said the bodies were recovered in two buildings – “Ten-ten” and “C26” which is near the Port Area.
“Sangayon, I believe we can say na nailiminate na natin (we have already eliminated) the threat in the main battle area. If ever there will still be stragglers, there will only be few, siguroisa o dalawanalang (maybe one of two),” he said
The bodies of the slain Maute fighter will undergo DNA testing to find out their identities and determine if Baco is one of them.
Deputy Director General Fernando Mendez, deputy chief for Operations of the PNP, said Baco“is one of the longest-staying foreign terrorist fighters in the Philippines. He was with another Malaysian terrorist bomb maker Julkifli bin Hir (Marwan) for a long time so he is one of the experienced foreign fighters in the Philippines.”
Mendez said this could be the reason why Baco was chosen to replace Hapilon after the latter was killed.
But Mendez, however,could not recall when Bacocame to the Philippines.
During the Mamasapano massacre, Baco was reportedly in the same town but was too far to participate in the clashes with the police.
Syahputra told police Baco was with two other Indonesian terrorist when he last saw him in the Marawi ruins.
Tags: Amin Bacoalias Jihad, Carlito Galvez Jr., Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, Isnilon Hapilon, Malaysian fugitive is new IS emir in SEA – PNP, Maute Group, Omar Maute, Philippine Air Force 5th Fighter Wing, Philippine National Police