PETALING JAYA • A Malaysian municipal council worker who went to the Philippines in 2014 to join an ISIS-linked militant group was killed last week in Marawi City.
Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee was killed in aerial bombing by the military, intelligence sources told The Star newspaper.
The 42-year-old was a division head at Selayang town council in Selangor, and his story reflects how ordinary Malaysians who turned to extremist ideology would suddenly leave home and pick up arms abroad as killers.
He was among a group of three Malaysians with steady jobs who told their families in April 2014 that they were going to the Philippines for a six-day trip. They did not return after news spread that the police had them on their wanted list.
The others who left with Joraimee were university lecturer Mahmud Ahmad and bookshop salesman Mohd Najib Husen.
Anti-terror officials have said previously that there were at least four Malaysians, including the trio, who were believed to be fighting for militant groups in the Philippines.
In Iraq and Syria, officials said in July that 34 Malaysians have been killed since 2013, while a further 53 Malaysian ISIS members remain in Syria.
And several Malaysians had been detected getting ready to fight the Myanmar army in Rakhine state.
An old picture of Joraimee released by the police shows him with short hair and clipped beard in a white shirt and dark suit.
In a later picture from the southern Philippines, Joraimee, who was known as Abu Nur among militants, carries a long gun and a machete while waving the black flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.
Asked to comment on Joraimee having been killed in the Philippines, police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun replied: "Yes, this is what I have received so far. Am unable to give more details at the moment."
Joraimee was sacked by the Selayang council in May after he failed to turn up for work. It was never explained what turned him and the dozens of others to militancy, but officials have said social media played a big part in spreading extremist ideology.
He and Malaysian lecturer Mahmud were among planners of the attack on Marawi City on Mindanao island. Others who planned the attack were Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-and-ransom group, and brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute.
Their audacious aim? To make Marawi City the base for the creation of an Islamic "caliphate" in South-east Asia.
Jakarta-based terrorism expert Sidney Jones told The Star that Joraimee's death, if true, would indicate that the army is closing in on the inner circle of the Maute brothers and Isnilon.
"Joraimee worked closely with Dr Mahmud and may have helped with fund raising and financial transfers," she said.
Mahmud is still believed to be in Marawi City. Mohd Najib, the bookshop salesman, was killed in a firefight with the military in December 2015.
Mohd Najib had by then become a bomb expert and was killed before he could help the Abu Sayyaf bomb a mall in Zamboanga City, located far to the south-west of Marawi City.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK