MANILA/KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian militant who helped finance the ongoing siege by extremists on the southern city of Marawi is believed to have been killed in fighting, the Philippine military said on Friday (June 23).
The Straits Times understands from the Philippine military that the militant is Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist, Mahmud Ahmad.
General Eduardo Año said Mahmud bin Ahmad was wounded in the fighting in Marawi last month and died on June 7 of his wounds.
Citing intelligence shared by foreign counterparts, Gen Año said Mahmud is suspected of channelling more than 30 million pesos from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack.
It was previously reported that the university lecturer-turned-militant, who is highly regarded by fighters battling government security forces in the southern Philippines, had assumed a leadership role among Maute militants in the region with links to ISIS.
Omarkhayam Maute, who with his brother Abdullah formed the group that supplied the bulk of gunmen who stormed Marawi a month ago, is also believed to have been killed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman of Task Force Marawi, told reporters they had validated information on Maute’s death.
Malaysian counter-terrorism authorities said it could not confirm Mahmud Ahmad's demise as his body has not been found. However, they confirmed that Mahmud has been raising funds for the terror group.
The money has been wired via Western Union, with each transaction taking only about five minutes.
If confirmed, Mahmud’s death would be a blow to efforts by ISIS to establish a foothold in the war-torn southern island group of Mindanao.
Mahmud is known to have been recruiting Malaysians wanting to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and is believed to have been designated as a successor of Isnilon Hapilon, named as head of ISIS’ South-east Asia wing.
He trained at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan under Osama bin Laden while studying at Pakistan’s Islamabad Islamic University in the late 1990s. He returned to Malaysia to lecture at Universiti Malaya.
After being exposed as an extremist militant by Malaysian police in 2014, he fled to the Philippines.
WITH REPORTING BY NADIRAH H. RODZI IN KUALA LUMPUR