Malaysia's most wanted terrorist killed?
Conflicting reports over fate of Marawi fighter Mahmud Ahmad
Two top Muslim militants, including Malaysia's most wanted terrorist, were yesterday reported killed, as fighting in the southern Philippine city of Marawi raged on.
Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad, 41, who helped lead and finance the assault on the city a month ago, was wounded in fighting in Marawi last month and died on June 7, military chief General Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press yesterday.
Omarkhayam Maute, who with his brother Abdullah formed the group that provided the bulk of gunmen who stormed Marawi, is also believed to have been killed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for Task Force Marawi, told reporters yesterday they had validated information on Maute's death.
The bodies of both men have not been recovered.
If confirmed, their deaths are a blow to efforts by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group to gain a firm foothold in the war-torn Philippine island of Mindanao.
But Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar denied reports that Mahmud had been killed.
"Mahmud is still alive and fighting in Marawi (on Mindanao island)," IGP Khalid was quoted saying by The New Straits Times last evening.
Both men are well-educated and steeped in extremist Islamist ideas that have made them effective at recruiting converts.
Mahmud is suspected of channelling more than 30 million pesos (S$829,000) from ISIS to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the Marawi assault, Gen Ano said, citing intelligence shared by foreign counterparts.
Malaysian counter-terrorism authorities said the money was wired via a popular remittance service.
They refused to say where the money originated or who received it in the Philippines.
Mahmud is known to have been recruiting Malaysians wanting to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Intelligence reports said he recruited dozens of Malaysians who were among about 500 Muslim militants who stormed Marawi on May 23 in an attempt to turn the city into an ISIS "province".