MANILA - (UPDATED) The Philippine military is checking reports that Malaysian terrorist Dr. Mahmud Ahmad may have been among 20 extremists killed after security forces attacked terrorist hideouts in Marawi City overnight.
The state assault killed 13 terrorists on late Wednesday and 7 more early Thursday, said Major General Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces.
Several rescued hostages, Padilla said, claimed that among the fatalities was a foreigner resembling Dr. Mahmud, an alleged financier and recruiter that helped put together the coalition of pro-Islamic State fighters who stormed Marawi in May.
"Dahil hindi pa po natin nakukuha [ang bangkay], nakakapasok sa kinaroroonan ng mga kalaban, hindi pa po natin makumpirma ito 100 percent," Padilla told DZMM.
"Pero tumataas po ang porsyento at nagiging kampante po kami, increasingly confident na ito na nga po iyun."
(We cannot fully confirm this because we have yet to retrieve the body from the terrorist hideout. But we are increasingly confident that the fatality was Mahmud.)
The 39-year-old Mahmud, who holds a doctorate in religious studies and was a university lecturer in Kuala Lumpur, was the second-in-command of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, according to a July report by Indonesia-based Institute of Policy Analysis and Conflict (IPAC).
Mahmud took over the terrorist assault in Marawi after state troops on Monday neutralized Hapilon, the anointed "emir" of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omarkhayam Maute, one of 2 Middle East-educated brothers at the helm of the militant alliance, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año earlier said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced the liberation of Marawi City, after more than 4 months of battling Islamic State-inspired terrorists. Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, however, said there are around 11 to 20 remaining terrorists in the city with more than 10 hostages. With Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN News ; and Reuters