MANILA - A top Malaysian terrorist with long combat experience in the war-torn southern Philippine island of Mindanao is the new "emir" of the ultra-radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in South-east Asia, the Philippines' police chief said on Monday (Nov 6).
Sabahan Mohammad Amin Baco, 31, replaced Isnilon Hapilon, 51, who was killed as the five-months-long conflict between Philippine troops and Muslim militants for Marawi city in Mindanao, drew to a close.
"Amin Baco is now the leader, not just of the remaining Maute but as emir of South-east Asia ISIS," Director-General Ronald de la Rosa told reporters, referring to the group that supplied the bulk of fighters who stormed Marawi on May 23.
Deputy Director-General Rolando Mendez said Baco is "one of the most experienced terrorists" in the Philippines, plotting attacks and providing combat training to local militants for years.
Baco was an operative of the Malaysia-based terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Intelligence sources said he was trained by fellow Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was one of the world's most wanted terrorists when he was killed in a police raid two years ago.
Baco was staying near Marwan's remote hideout in Mamasapano town in Mindanao during the raid, but he eluded arrest, said Mr Mendez.
Security officials said Baco took part in the Marawi attack, but they could not ascertain whether he managed to flee or is leading dozens of stragglers still inside the city.
Mr De la Rosa said most of the new information about Baco was provided by Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, an Indonesian militant nabbed in Marawi last week.
Security expert Rommel Banlaoi said Baco presents a bigger threat than Hapilon or Mahmud Ahmad, a former Malaysian university lecturer who was Hapilon's No 2 but was also killed in Marawi.
Mahmud was regarded more as an ideologue and organiser than a battlefield commander.
Baco, on the other hand, has had a long experience in fighting a guerilla war. He is also adept at making bombs, a knowledge he has passed on to many recruits.
Besides Baco, security forces are also hunting for 42-year-old Malaysian municipal council worker Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee and an Indonesian known only as Qayyim.