MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana dismissed the capabilities of the new supposed emir of Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia, Malaysian national Amin Baco, as a “middle level” terrorist operative who may only have to step up to lead the remaining stragglers inside the Marawi battle area.
“Hindi naman lumalabas ang pangalan niya noon. Ngayon lang lumabas ‘yan. Maybe he is not as high-profile as Isnilon Hapion. Siguro mga middle level lang yan. It seems wala nang leaders na mas mataas sa kaniya. He may also be taking over,” Lorenzana told reporters on Monday, November 6.
(His name was never floated before. It’s only now. He might not be as high-profile as Hapilon. He might just be a middle level operative. It seems no other leader survived the clashes. He may also be taking over.)
Baco is no Hapilon
Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa claimed on Monday that Baco had taken over as ISIS emir in Southeast Asia to replace the late Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. He teamed up with the Maute Brothers in attacking Marawi City in May to establish an Islamic caliphate.
“I think [Baco] can no longer mass up that number of troops the way Isnilon did in Marawi – close to a thousand fighters who are fully equipped, fully armed, and fully supplied with ammunition,” said Lorenzana.
He is one of several personalities the military are hunting down inside the battle area in Marawi City.
Lorenzana did not confirm Baco had been given the title previously given to Hapilon, but he said they received “news” that he could be the successor of Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed in Marawi City last month. The military is hunting him down in the battle area, although Western Mindanao
Malaysian Mahmud Ahmad, who was believed to be next-in-command, was also killed in clashes there.
Baco may even be dead?
The military believes Baco may even be dead. Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said the military on Sunday pounded a building in the battle area where he was believed to be hiding.
“Nakita ko si (I saw) Amin Baco. He is now inside the [main battle area] and yesterday [Sunday, November 5] the camp commanders have reported to me that there are body counts there in the areas where they are,” Galvez said in a separate interview on Monday.
“They are hiding and we believe, hopefully, na isa si Amin Baco… I gave the instructions to camp commanders to get Amin Baco and the [son of Hapilon] so we can already break the chain of the ISIS and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao,” he said.
The military maintains the stragglers in the battle area that the military has yet to clear no longer pose a threat although generals could not give an estimate on how many fighters are left in the battle area.
On Sunday, at least 9 bodies of Maute fighters were retrieved from the battle area as clashes continue with stragglers.
“They are no longer a force to reckon with because they can no longer hold the ground and sustain the fight. They fire and run away. The problem now is to pursue them and when you pursue sometimes they leave behind some explosives,” said Lorenzana. – Rappler.com