By Aaron Recuenco
Malaysian Amin Baco has replaced slain Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon as the designated emir of the Southeast Asia caliphate being established by the Islamic State if Iraq and Syria, police disclosed Monday.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the information was divulged by Indonesian Muhammad Syahputra who was arrested in Marawi City last week while trying to escape from the main battle zone where he fought with Maute Group against government troopers.
“Amin Baco is not only the leader of the remaining stragglers in Marawi City but also for the Southeast Asia because Isnilon Hapilon was the former emir and now he assumed the position of Hapilon as emir of the Southeast Asia ISIS,” said dela Rosa.
Hapilon was killed along with Omarkhayam Maute last month, their deaths started the end of the Marawi City siege which started on May 23.
Dela Rosa said they are still verifying as to the total number of remaining stragglers in Marawi City since a lot of things have already happened since Syahputra parted ways with what he claimed to be 40 remaining Maute fighters.
The official said some of them may have already been killed while some might have already escaped.
Dela Rosa said they are also verifying report that Baco has already slipped out of Marawi City.
“That information has to be validated. Maybe he is still there [in Marawi] or maybe he had already escaped,” said dela Rosa.
Who is Amin?
Baco (pronounced batso according to dela Rosa), has been staying in the Philippines for a long time and fighting with various terror groups based in Mindanao.
Deputy Director General Fernando Mendez, deputy chief for operations of the PNP, said Baco was with Marwan for a long time until the latter was killed during the controversial Mamasapano clash in 2009.
“He is one of the longest-staying foreign terror fighters in the Philippines. He was with Marwan for a long time so he is one of the experienced foreign fighters in the Philippines,” said Mendez.
“So this maybe the reason why when Isnilon Hapilon was killed, he was chosen or elected as replacement,” he added.
But Mendez said he could not recall when Baco arrived in the Philippines.
The official however disclosed that during the Mamasapano attack by police commandos, Baco was also in the same town but was too far to participate in the clashes with the police.
Dela Rosa said Syahputra has told the police that Baco was with two other Indonesians when he last saw him in Marawi.
It was recalled that a lot of foreign fighters, mostly from neighboring countries, arrived in the Philippines at the height of the Marawi gun battle to reinforce the Maute Group.
Several foreign fighters were among the almost 1,000 Maute fighters killed during the five-month intense urban warfare in Marawi City.
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