THE military has identified the new leader or “emir” of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia.
Abu Dar, a “full-blooded” Maranao and a native of Pagayawan, Lanao del Sur, succeeded Isnilon Hapilon who was killed close to the end of the five-month siege in Marawi City, the Philippine Army said on Monday.
Maj. Ronald Suscano, spokesman for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said Abu Dar was a sub-leader of Hapilon when the latter was still alive.
Suscano said the military had found that Dar was the money “courier” during the onslaught at Marawi City led by the IS-inspired Maute group.
Suscano said the parents and relatives of Abu Dar were also residents of Lanao del Sur.
Hapilon, he said, was more “radical” than Dar, since the slain IS leader had more experience, training and was much older than his successor.
“I am just not sure how old Hapilon was…Abu Dar, among the sub-leaders still alive, stands as the one who is more advanced and knows all the connections, which is why he replaced Hapilon as the ‘emir’ or the leader [of IS in Southeast Asia],” Suscano explained.
“The only thing keeping Abu Dar strong is that he has connections with foreign terrorists,” he added.
The IS-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City in May last year following a botched military operation to serve the warrant of arrest against Hapilon in the Islamic city.
Fighting resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people including soldiers, civilians and terrorists.
The war prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
In October, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Armed Forces chief Eduardo Año announced the termination of combat operations in Marawi City, days after Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute were killed in a pre-dawn operation led by the Army’s Scout Ranger Battalion.
Suscano’s revelations came after the arrest of alleged Maute sub-leader Abdul Nasser Lomondot by the Manila Police District over the weekend at Recto Avenue in Manila.
According to Suscano, at least 313 “remnants” of the Maute group escaped Marawi City after the siege.
Of the 313, 10 are sub-leaders, including Lomondot, the official said.
“Normally, when they are operating, he (Lomondot) is not alone. [He is with] at least two to four [persons]but they are hiding on their own. They might be hiding with their kin in Manila since there are Maranaos there,” he pointed out.
“Primarily, they are only hiding. Of course, they are trained and they will turn into criminals. They can rob and they can commit any crimes. They are really bandits.”