From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): AFP chief: IS funded Marawi siege through Malaysian
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad reportedly channeled more than $600,000 from the IS to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi. Money believed to be from illegal drugs also funded the uprising, he said. AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File
Middle East-based terror group Islamic State (IS) helped fund the month-long siege of this city through a Malaysian militant who was reportedly killed by troops, the military chief said Friday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad reportedly channeled more than $600,000 from the IS to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi. Money believed to be from illegal drugs also funded the uprising, he said.
Mahmud was wounded in the fighting last month and reportedly died on June 7, he said. But when asked by AFP for confirmation of Mahmud’s reported death, Malaysia’s Inspector General Police Abu Bakar said: “Not true. He is still alive.”
A local militant leader, Omarkhayam Maute, is also believed to have been killed in the early days of intense fighting and troops were looking for their remains to validate the intelligence the military had received. Troops are seeking the help of villagers to pinpoint the spot where Mahmud was reportedly buried, Año said.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar acknowledged that Mahmud was in Marawi fighting with insurgents but said he believed the militant is still alive.
Malaysian authorities are trying to determine the number of Malaysians who joined the siege but said at least four may have been killed in clashes.
Two other rebel leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Maute’s brother Abdullah, both Filipinos, were still fighting in Marawi, Año said.
A former Malaysian university professor who became radicalized and received training in Afghanistan, Mahmud appeared in a video showing militant leaders planning the Marawi siege in a hideout, a sign of his key role in the uprising. A copy of the video was seized by troops on May 23.
A month ago, about 500 local militants, along with some foreign fighters, stormed into Marawi, a bastion of the Islamic faith in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Troops since then have killed about 280 gunmen, recovered nearly 300 assault firearms and regained control of 85 buildings.
Many of the taller buildings were used as sniper posts to slow down the advance of government forces, the military said.
At least 69 soldiers and police and 26 civilians have died in the fighting.
Only four villages in Marawi remain in the hands of the militants, out of the 19 of 96 villages across the lakeside city of 200,000 people that the black flag-waving militants had occupied.
“They are constricted in a very small area. They’re pinned down,” Año said.
He said three boatloads of gunmen who tried to join the militants were blasted by navy gunboats three days ago in Lake Lanao, which borders Marawi.
Año said the battle was taking longer because the militants were using civilians as human shields. “We can just bomb them away or use napalm bombs to burn everything, but then, we will not be any different from them if we do that,” he said.
The audacious attack by the heavily armed militants and their ability to hold on to large sections of a city for weeks surprised the government and sparked fears among Southeast Asian countries that the IS group was moving to gain a foothold in the region.
Australian help Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the Philippines accepted an offer of two AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance to local troops.
The US military earlier deployed a spy plane and drones over Marawi. Facing his worst crisis, President Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao to deal with the Marawi siege.