MANILA - Troops are searching for the remains of a Malaysian militant who was reportedly killed in a firefight in the southern city of Marawi, the Philippine military chief said Thursday.
Citing former hostages, the military said Mahmud Ahmad, the alleged point person of Islamic State jihadists, was among 13 terror suspects killed in Marawi late Wednesday. The government declared the city's "liberation" from extremists the day before.
"One of the rescued hostages revealed that Mahmud was dead and buried last night. We will look for the cadaver," General Eduardo Año said in a statement.
A forensic examination is needed to confirm the "big possibility" that Mahmud was killed, Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao earlier said.
The military said Mahmud helped fund the 5-month long occupation of Marawi City, which left more than 1,000 people, mostly rebels, killed
Some experts said he could be the Islamic State's "emir" in Southeast Asia after the death on Monday of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of the militant alliance that laid siege to Marawi.
Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who was wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was killed early on Monday along with Omarkhayam Maute, one of 2 leaders of the Maute militant clan, with whom he teamed up with to try to carve out an Islamic State "Wilaya" in the southern Philippines.
The alliance was strengthened by fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East, among other countries, and Mahmud, a 39-year-old former university lecturer, is believed to have been central to attracting funds to finance the operations.
-- With Reuters