KUALA LUMPUR -Malaysia's most wanted terrorist, Mahmud Ahmad, had a key role in plotting the deadly siege of Marawi City in the Philippines by Islamist militants, according to foreign intelligence sources.
The New Straits Times reported that the 41-year-old had taken a leadership role among Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-affiliated terrorsts who were battling the Philippine government's security forces in the country's south.
A video clip doing the rounds showed Mahmud among a group of aterrorist leaders being briefed by Abdullah, one of the brothers of the Maute terrorist group that has spearheaded the Marawi City siege.
Listening intently to Abdullah is Isnilon Hapilon, the 51-year-old ISIS leader for South Asia, who has a US$5 million ( S$6.92 million) bounty on his head and is also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini.
Hapilon did not appear to be injured, as suggested in recent reports, which had also hinted that Mahmud was poised to take over as the "emir" for ISIS in this part of the world in the event of Hapilon's death.
Sitting across from Hapilon was Mahmud, a former Universiti Malaya lecturer, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Hanadzlah.Also identified in the recording shot inside a concrete structure was Abdullah's brother, Omarkhayam.
While Hapilon is well known internationally - having made it onto the US Federal Bureau of Invetigations (FBI) most wanted list, Mahmud has largely stayed under the radar.
In the video, Abdullah mainly addressed Mahmud in Maranao, a local dialect. Mahmud resopnded in the same language.
Mahmud appears to look more chiselled than mugshots release by the police after he escaped a dragnet to join the Abu Sayyaf group, reported The New Straits Times.
He interjected Abdullah several times with questions on the plans to attack Mindanao State University in Marawi City, the capital of the Lanao del Sur province. Another targetwas Butig, a former training base for Moro Islamic Liberation Fighters.
"Among the group led by Hapilon, Mahmud is a well-respected leader. His military training experience at the Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, aside from the fact that he has a strong Islamic background, including as a lecturer, has earned him respect from militants in the area," one of the intelligence sources told the NST.