AFTER the Philippine Army announced that a new “emir” has been chosen to lead the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government was looking at 20 others who could replace the late Isnilon Hapilon.
“There are [terror]leaders left after the Marawi siege. There are 21 of them we are looking at,” Esperon told reporters on the sidelines of the annual “Protect Forum” in Makati City on Tuesday.
Esperon’s disclosure came after the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (ID) identified on Monday Hapilon’s successor as Abu Dar, a survivor of the five-month war in Marawi.
Esperon said, however, that aside from Dar, the government also identified Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco and Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan, who is based in Talipao, Sulu, as possible replacements.
Esperon said aside from the three, authorities have identified the 18 others.
Based on published reports, Baco, who has been on Malaysian police’s Most Wanted since 2006, is a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group. He is reportedly linked to the bombings in Sulu and Basilan and is under the protection of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) based in the Philippines.
A US Army report said Baco was one of three targets in the raid in Mamasapano in Maguindanao in January 2015, along with fellow Malaysians Zulkifli Bin Hir (alias “Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman. Forty-four police commandos died in the fighting between government troops and Muslim rebels.
Igasan was declared leader of the ASG in July 2007, succeeding Khadaffy Janjalani who was killed in 2006 in an encounter with troops.
Igasan, a Middle East-trained religious scholar, is also one of the founding members of the ASG, along with Janjalani’s older brother, Abdulrajak.
Dar is a native of Pagayawan, Lanao del Sur.
He is thought to be less radical than Hapilon, who is known to have more experience with the Islamic State.
Major Ronald Suscano of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division said that Dar’s strength was his connections with foreign terrorists. WITH A REPORT FROM ARIC CUA