MARAWI CITY (Updated) -- The military said Dr. Ahmad Mahmud, a top Malaysian terrorist, is believed to be among 13 Islamic State (IS) group-linked fighters killed overnight in clashes in this southern city.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines though is still confirming the report.
Joint Task Group Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said the information came from two hostages who were rescued by the troops on Wednesday evening, October 18.
Mahmud is a Malaysian terrorist who allegedly funded the Maute terror group to stage its attack in Marawi City.
Major General Restituto Padilla said that officials were awaiting the recovery of the body to get full confirmation.
“For Dr. Mahmud, he will undergo DNA examination to confirm it was really him,” Brawner added.
He said retrieval operations on the killed terrorist are ongoing, noting that the enemies are still in a defensive position where they used their hostages as human shield.
“Actually, the day na napatay si (Isnilon) Hapilon and Omar (Maute), sabi nung mga tropa kaya na daw sana nila pasukin pa ‘yung ibang kalaban pero naririnig nila nag-iyakan ‘yung ibang hostages na mga babae at bata kaya nag back-off sila (The day Hapilon and Maute were killed, the troops said they are supposed to penetrate the terrorists position but they heard the children and women hostages crying, that is why they backed off),” he said.
Brawner said that from October 17 to 18, 20 rebels, allegedly including Mahmud, were killed in the fighting.
Six soldiers were slightly wounded and two civilian hostages — a mother and her teenage daughter — were rescued Thursday morning, October 19, said Padilla.
Military progress in retaking the battle-scarred city has sparked hopes that hundreds of thousands of displaced residents could return home nearly five months after the terrorists began their siege.
On Monday, defense officials said two of the last leaders of the siege — most-wanted terror suspect Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute — were killed in a gunbattle.
READ: Isnilon Hapilon, Omar Maute killed in Marawi
The military said that with the death of the two terrorist leaders, none of the remaining, at least 20 to 30 bandits, are in capacity to direct the group.
Brawner said troops on the ground are still identifying how many more terrorists are continuously standing their position in the siege, noting that they do not receive any surrender feelers.
Asked what could keep the terrorists motivated, he said that according to the hostages, Hapilon and Maute would always tell their members to fight until the end or until the day they die.
As of October 19, 164 soldiers and policemen, 882 rebels and 47 civilians were killed since the Marawi siege started on May 23. (With AP/SunStar Philippines)