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Foreign Maute financier killed

By: AP

A Malaysian militant who helped lead and finance the siege of Marawi City is believed to have been killed as the local jihadis aligned with the Islamic State group become increasingly constricted after a month of fighting, the Armed Forces chief said yesterday.

Gen. Eduardo Año told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad was wounded in the fighting in Marawi last month and reportedly died on June 7 of his wounds.

He said the military has a general idea of where the militant was buried and troops are trying to locate the exact spot with the help of civilians to recover the remains and validate the intelligence that was received. A local militant leader, Omarkhayam Maute, also is believed to have been killed in the early days of intense fighting, he said.

Año, citing intelligence shared by foreign counterparts, said Mahmud was suspected of channeling more than P30 million ($600,000) from the Islamic State group to acquire firearms, food, and other supplies for the attack.

A former Malaysian university professor who later turned into a jihadi and received training in Afghanistan, Mahmud appeared in a militant video showing militant leaders planning the Marawi siege in a hideout, a sign of his key role in the uprising.

The AP obtained a copy of the video, which was seized by Filipino troops in a militant hideout on May 23.

Malaysian security officials have also received information of Mahmud’s killing in Marawi and were trying to confirm it.

Two other leaders of the uprising, top Filipino militant suspect Isnilon Hapilon and Maute’s brother, Abdullah, were still with other gunmen fighting in Marawi, Año said.

A month ago, about 500 local militants, along with several foreign fighters, stormed into Marawi, a bastion of Islamic faith in the south of 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 high rises were used as sniper posts to slow down the advance of government forces, the military said.

At least 69 soldiers and policemen and 26 civilians have also perished in the fighting.

Of the 19 of 96 villages across the lakeside city of 200,000 people that the black flag-waving militants occupied, only four villages remain under their control, Ano said.

“They are constricted in a very small area. They’re pinned down,” Ano said. He also said three boatloads of gunmen, who tried to join the militants, were blasted by Navy gunboats three days ago in Lanao Lake, which borders Marawi.

The gunmen may have either been militants repositioning from nearby areas or rebel reinforcements from elsewhere, he said.

Ano said that the battle in Marawi was taking longer than usual because the militants were using civilians as human shields and had no qualms destroying an entire city and killing anyone on their path.

“We can just bomb them away or use napalm bomb to burn everything, but then, we will not be any different from them if we do that,” he said.