MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday it is still validating reports that a new leader or "emir" of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia has emerged from Lanao del Sur.
"The recruitment, reorganizing and regrouping has been going on. It has been going on immediately after, or before the actual Marawi incident happened. So all of these areas, especially the urban areas, places where congestion can happen, we are monitoring it, closely monitoring it through our field units" Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, Chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service, told reporters.
He was making reference to the five-month siege of Marawi City last year, led by Islamic State-linked terrorists.
Maj. Ronald Suscano, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division, was quoted in reports Monday that Abu Dar, a native of Pagayawan town in Lanao del Sur, has succeeded Isnilon Hapilon.
Hapilon, said to be the anointed emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, was killed in military offensives in October last year along with terror leader Omar Maute. Both were tagged in the Marawi siege.
The reports said Abu Dar was a money courier during the Marawi siege. Suscano described him to be more radical than Hapilon and is known to have connections with foreign terrorists.
Datuin said remnants of ISIS-linked terror groups pursued aspirations of their predecessors, which is to establish a caliphate in the Philippines.
"He has the resources, he was able to bring that along within and of course, sabi ko, 'yung leadership skills niya, it may be possible that this may guide them into forming another group and plan another big event or big activity," Datuin told reporters.