By AARON RECUENCO
They may now be considered bits and pieces at least in the Philippines but the ISIS leadership still saw a need to name a replacement to the late Southeast Asian emir Isnilon Hapilon.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the terror group has named Malaysian Amin Baco as the region’s successor of Hapilon who was recently killed during the battle in Marawi City.
Dela Rosa 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 the Maute Group.
“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 Omar Maute last month, their deaths led to the eventual disintegration of the terrorists and the ultimate end of the siege which started on May 23.
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.
Baco (pronounced batso according to Dela Rosa), has been staying in the Philippines for quite some time fighting together 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.
“This maybe the reason why when Isnilon Hapilon was killed, he (Baco) was chosen or elected as replacement,” he added.
Baco was said to be with Marawan during the Mamasapano siege but was not near the area when the attack occurred.
Dela Rosa meantime said Syahputra has told the police that Baco was with two other Indonesians when he last saw him in Marawi.