By Francis Wakefield
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. today said they are looking at the possibility that the remaining 21 terrorist leaders, some of which took part in the Marawi siege, could be in line as next “Emir” of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
Esperson made the revelation following an ambush interview in Makati City after attending a security forum dubbed Even PROTECT 2018: Doing Business Amidst New Threats.
Esperon said that after government forces liberated Marawi City from the hands of the Maute Group and killed a number of leaders including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, considered as “Emir” of IS in Southeast Asia, there are 21 remaining leaders who could potentially replace him.
“Well after we walloped them in Marawi, there were of course may mga leader na natitira (there were remaining leaders), there were 21 of them we are looking at,” Esperon said.
“So one of them would be Abu Dar because he is very near Marawi,” he said.
Esperon said Dar managed to get out of Marawi and bring out some funds which they believed he can use to recruit or to fund some of their operations.
“That’s why we are looking at him very carefully. There are said to be movements in Butig, Lanao area but we are confident that with the current troops, density of troops we have in the area we can get him,” Esperon said.
“He remains to be on the run but of course the most ideal will be to get him, makuha sana siya,” he said.
Esperon added that they are also looking in other parts of Mindanao, like Basilan where the potential leader could arise just like Amin Baco who remained unaccounted for.
“There’s another one, Baco he is in another part of Mindanao. In other words iyung ating (our) Mindanao ay napakalawak (it’s huge). Isnilon remember he came from Basilan. We are also looking at other leaders there including Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sulu for that matter,” Esperon said.
“You know they might aspire to become what they call the ISIS chapter,” he said.
Esperson said contrary to an earlier report from a military spokesman based in Mindanao that Dar is the new “Emir,” he is only a probable candidate so far.