Philippines: Malaysian financier believed killed in siege

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Mahmud bin Ahmad was killed on 7 June in the clash between Filipino troops and local jihadis aligned with the Islamic State (Isis) group in the besieged city, the country's military chief said on Friday (23 June).

Participants, from left, Indonesian armed forces chief Gen. TNI Gatot Nurmantyo, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Haji Aman, Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Philippine armed forces chief Gen. Eduardo Ano, link arms prior to the start of their Trilateral Security Meeting in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines, June 22, 2017.

Ano, quoting intelligence shared by foreign counterparts, said that Maute was suspected of using more than $ 600 million from the Islamic State to acquire weapons, food, and other supplies. 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.

There are worries that militants fleeing Marawi may fan out to Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere in South-east Asia, and that the siege in Marawi has drawn radicals from across the region to the Philippines.

Mahmud reportedly received training in Afghanistan and appeared in a video that showed militant leaders planning the siege in Marawi, which is thought to be a sign that he playing a significant role in the unrest. Troops since then have killed about 280 gunmen, recovered almost 300 assault firearms and regained control of 85 buildings.

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.

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They refused to say where the money came from or who received it in the Philippines.

"Mahmud is still alive and fighting in Marawi", he said just after returning from a security meeting in the Philippines. 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.

"This is an urgent task", he said, citing the month-long stand-off in Marawi between government troops and Muslim militants with ties to the ISIS. Defense Minister Marise Payne said Australia would deploy two AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance support to the Philippine military.

Powerful clans and warlords, along with insurgencies, have effectively weakened law enforcement in large areas in the country's south, making it easier for militants to take over an area and hold it, said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia. "It's much broader problem that needs a strategic solution".

The foreign ministers from the three countries, diplomats and top security officials met in Manila on Thursday to initiate an action plan to combat the recent upsurge in terrorist activity.

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