Malaysia’s ‘most wanted’ killed in Marawi: Officials

Black smoke billows from destroyed buildings after an artillery fire from government troops at the remaining militant postion near the lake in Marawi. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2017
0

Malaysia’s ‘most wanted’ killed in Marawi: Officials

MANILA/JAKARTA: Malaysia’s most wanted, Mahmud Ahmad, was among 20 militants killed Wednesday and Thursday in the Philippine military’s offensive in Marawi City, military officials said.
The head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Eduardo Ano, described the operation as “very positive.”
He added: “We were able to neutralize 13 (militants Wednesday night)... Early this (Thursday) morning, we were able to get seven more.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed the death of Ahmad, 39, an alleged financer of Maute militants.
The latest operation also resulted in the rescue of two civilians, a mother and daughter, who claim to have seen Ahmad among the slain terrorists, said AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
Ano said one of the rescued hostages revealed that Ahmad was immediately buried Wednesday night. “We’ll look for the cadaver,” said the AFP chief.
Ahmad’s reported killing comes four days after the deaths of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Hapilon was Daesh’s designated leader for Southeast Asia, and was regarded by the US as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
Omar and his brother Abdullah formed the Maute group, which attacked and has held parts of Marawi City since May 23. Ahmad had been touted as Hapilon’s potential successor as Daesh’s emir in Southeast Asia.
Ahmad, who also went by the name Abu Handzalah, was a former university lecturer in Kuala Lumpur.
He was reportedly trained in an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan under Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, when he was a student at the Islamic International University in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Ahmad is suspected of channeling more than 30 million Philippine pesos ($600,000) from Daesh to fund the Marawi siege.
He was believed to be hiding in a building inside the main battle zone after the deaths of Hapilon and Omar.
Padilla described Ahmad as a “very significant asset” to local militants, as he was the one providing funds and serving as a conduit to Daesh. “He was the financier and logistical enabler, but not a fighter,” Padilla told Arab News.
A report released by the Indonesia-based Institute of Policy Analysis and Conflict (IPAC) in July cited Ahmad’s crucial role in how the chain of command functioned between Syria and Marawi.
“All foreigners wanting to join the East Asia Wilayah — as the command structure in Marawi refers to itself — had to go through Dr. Ahmad,” said the report.
“He also arranged for ISIS (Daesh) funding for the Marawi operations to be laundered through Indonesia, using operatives of Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD).”
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the Joint Task Group Ranao, said they have yet to retrieve all the bodies of the slain militants. The latest enemy casualties were due mostly to sniper shots, he added.
Brawner described enemy resistance as “organized” but now limited to urban terrain less than a hectare in size.
“They’ve established their defensive positions and are using hostages as human shields,” he said.
“Sometimes they (militants) would use them as bait. They’ll tell them to run down the road, and if they get fired at, that means there are soldiers where the shots are coming from.”
More than 20 militants are still in the area, according to the rescued hostages. Padilla predicts retaliatory attacks following the deaths of their leaders.
“We’re prepared. We’re monitoring potential areas where they might launch retaliatory attacks,” he said.
He identified the areas as Maguindanao, Cotabato, parts of Lanao Del Sur, Basilan, Jolo, Sulu, Tawi Tawi in Mindanao, and major cities including Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Indonesian security forces remain on alert to thwart a spill-over of fighters from Marawi City to the country via its outermost northern islands, which share a sea border with the Philippines.
“We always anticipate the possible infiltration of militants from Marawi,” Indonesian police Brig. Gen. Hamidin, a senior official with Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Arab News.
Hamidin said Ahmad established Katibah Al-Muhajir (Battalion of Migrants) in the southern Philippines, helping at least 40 Indonesians arrive there since 2016.
His men were familiar with using the island trail on the porous maritime border between the two countries, as they smuggled weapons that were used in the Jan. 14, 2016 terrorist attack in central Jakarta, Hamidin added.
The fighting in Marawi, which prompted Duterte to place Mindanao island under martial law, has left more than 1,000 dead, including 882 militants, 164 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians. More than 350,000 residents have been displaced.


Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

Updated 19 min 33 sec ago
0

Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

ADDIS ABABA: Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is dispatching a delegation to Addis Ababa for “constructive engagement” with arch-foe Ethiopia after peace overtures this month from its new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a senior Eritrean diplomat said on Wednesday.
Isais made the annoucement — a potentially significant breakthrough in one of Africa’s most protracted conflicts — earlier on Wednesday, Eritrea’s ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, said on Twitter. He gave no further details.
Eritrean information minister Yemane Ghebremeskel did not respond to requests for comment.
Eritrea and Ethiopia remain bitter foes after a 1998-2000 conflict that drew comparisons to the First World War, with waves of conscripts forced to march through minefields toward Eritrean trenches, where they were cut down by machine gun fire.
Casuality figures are disputed in both countries although most estimates suggest 50,000 Ethiopian soldiers died, against 20,000 on the Eritrean side.
Even after the end of the war, the border remains heavily militarised and disputed, most notably the town of Badme which was part of Eritrea, according to a 2002 international arbitration ruling.
Since then, Addis has ignored the ruling and refused to pull out troops or officials, to the fury of Asmara.
However, Abiy, a 41-year-old former soldier who has embarked on a radical economic and political reform drive since taking over in March, stunned Ethiopians this month when he said Addis would honor all the terms of the settlement between the two countries, suggesting he was prepared to cede Badme.
In parliament this week, Abiy also acknoewledged the tensions continued to inflict a heavy economic cost on both countries and said Addis should no longer hide this price tag from the Ethiopian people, another stunning departure with the past.
There has so far been no official response to Abiy’s overtures from Eritrea, one of the Africa’s most closed states.