By: Agence France-Presse
One of America’s most wanted terrorists might have escaped a five-week battle with Islamist militants in a southern Philippine metropolis, which started with a raid to seize him, the army stated Saturday.
Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant stated to be the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group in Southeast Asia, has not been seen within the battle zone in Marawi City, stated Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, head of the army’s Western Mindanao Command.
An try by authorities troops to arrest Hapilon in Marawi on May 23 triggered a rampage by Islamist militants flying black IS flags who seized elements of the primarily Muslim metropolis.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial legislation in Marawi and your complete southern area of Mindanao, unleashing an offensive to crush what he stated was an try by the jihadist group to determine a province within the space.
“He (Hapilon) has not been seen in the area. We have some reports that he was already able to slip somewhere but as of now we are still confirming the reports,” Galvez stated in an interview with DZBB radio station.
Asked if Hapilon was on the run, he stated: “Yes, yes because reportedly he suffered a lot of casualties. Majority of his group, more than half, were casualties.”
Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement within the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans within the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US authorities, which has his identify on its “most wanted” terror record.
He leads a faction of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf that has pledged allegiance to IS.
Security analysts say he has been recognised by IS as its “amir”, or leader, in Southeast Asia, a area the place the group needs to determine a caliphate.
The army says Hapilon’s group had joined forces with one other armed militancy, the Maute Group, to launch the Marawi siege, now on its second month.
On Saturday, safety forces continued intense air raids and artillery fireplace on pockets of Marawi nonetheless occupied by the militants, whereas troops fought house-to-house gunbattles on the bottom.
“The operation is going on, the firefights are intense. We have gained substantial ground,” stated Galvez, the army commander.
Nearly 300 militants and 67 authorities troops have been killed within the preventing, in keeping with official figures.
Galvez stated there are “strong indications” that two or three of the Maute brothers — among the many key gamers within the siege — had been killed, together with Omarkhayam Maute, believed to be the group’s prime leader.
Only one brother, Abdullah, has been seen within the preventing, Galvez added.
Press studies additionally quoted army chief General Eduardo Ano as saying that Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad, who helped lead and finance the Marawi siege, is believed to have been killed, though his physique has not been retrieved.
When requested about Mahmud’s reported death, Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar advised AFP in a textual content message in Kuala Lumpur: “Not true. He is still alive.” (AFP)