GOVERNMENT troops killed a Malaysian jihadist and the alleged financier and architect of the Marawi City siege, along with 19 Islamic State-inspired Maute bandits in two consecutive days of fighting, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday.
Duterte said Mahmud Ahmad’s death completes the downfall of the jihadist leaders that fought it out with government troops in the capital city of Lanao del Sur.
“There were three of them—Isnilon] Hapilon, [Omar] Maute, and Doc [Mahmud]. He was taken this [Thursday] afternoon and that completes the story,” the President said.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Mahmud, a Malaysian ISIS militant and one of the brains behind the Marawi siege, and 19 militant fighters were blasted to death inside their concrete hideout in a search-and-destroy mission inside the main battle zone.
Año said the information was based on accounts by rescued hostages, and the military was still working on getting full confirmation of Mahmud’s death.
“One of the rescued hostages revealed that Mahmud is dead and was buried last night. We will look for the cadaver,” Año said.
“The AFP is increasingly becoming confident that he was among those who have been killed during yesterday’s [Wednesday] operations,” he added.
Ahmad was among the five militants who sought sanctuary among the Abu Sayyaf bandits after a major crackdown on Islamic militants in Malaysia.
“Our operations to flush out and deal with terrorist stragglers has been continuing relentlessly since yesterday. Last night’s operations have been very positive. We were able to neutralize 13 rebels and we confirmed this. Early this morning, we were able to get seven more,” Año said.
Troops were also able to rescue a mother and her teenage daughter.
“Troop morale remains very high and motivation to finish the fight is at its highest,” Año said.
About a dozen more terrorist stragglers remain in one of the buildings in the battle zone.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City following the killing of Abu Sayyaf chieftain and ISIS emir for Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Maute leader Omar Maute.
Año estimated there were 20 remaining hostages somewhere in the buildings held by the terrorist holdouts.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government would not let its guard down despite recent gains in the Marawi fighting and the arrest of an ISIS recruiter.
“The arrest of Karen Aizha Hamidon by the agents of the National Bureau of Investigation yesterday underscores that we cannot let our guard down in the fight against terrorism as some remnants of the forces of evil are still at large,” he said.
“Our efforts to hunt down extremist elements who want to sow fear and terror continue as we call upon our people to be continually vigilant and cooperate to inform authorities on possible threats to public safety,” he added.
A suspected Maute recruiter, Hamidon was arrested for spreading radical Islamic extremist propaganda and recruitng foreign fighters to come to the Philippines for terrorist acts and inciting rebellion through the use of the internet and social media.
Hamidon is the widow of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, the most wanted man in Sarangani before his death and former leader of Ansar Khalifa Philippines, the group behind the Davao bombing last year.
In a separate statement, Abella said the Palace welcomes reports that the Commission on Human Rights is set to investigate alleged human right violations in Marawi.
Abella said that the planned probe only “ensures adherence to the rule of law which is vital in upholding democracy.”
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP], we have to underline, gives primacy to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law and it continues to work with the CHR to ensure that no violation is committed by its units on the ground in connection with military operations, whether or not there is martial law,” he said.
In a report, CHR Policy Advisory Office OIC lawyer Gemma Parojinog said that they had already tasked their personnel in Marawi to monitor the situation from the time martial law was declared in Mindanao.