KOTA KINABALU: Two Malaysians are believed to be among 13 suspected Islamic State militants killed late Thursday in battles between the Philippines military and gunmen who have taken over Marawi City in Central Mindanao, Philippines since Tuesday.
Intelligence sources identified the Malaysians as Ustaz Abdurahman Asmawi from Kelantan and Dr Kamsa Yahya from Kedah.
The sources said that Indonesian Shei Ayman Marjuki and Saudi Arabian Sheikh Ahmad Belfaki were also among those killed so far in skirmishes at various villages in the city which is widely seen as the first city taken by IS in South East Asia.
Another Malaysian, former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad, is also believed to be in Marawi City, working with Basilan Abu Sayaff leader Isninon Hapilon to push for the creation of the Islamic State in South East Asia.
The sources did not say how many other Malaysians linked to the IS are in the city.
The sources said that the Philippines military have gained ground to flush out the militants who numbered between 200 and 500 members.
Philippine security forces started bombing residential areas in Marawi on Thursday as they battled Islamist militants who were holding hostages and reported to have murdered at least 11 civilians.
An initial rampage by gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.
Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because, although there were only 30 to 40 remaining gunmen, the militants were moving nimbly through homes, had planted bombs in the streets and were holding hostages.
Intense gunfighting could be heard constantly throughout the day, according to an AFP reporter in the city, and the military said it had dropped bombs on residential neighbourhoods.
”We are using surgical airstrikes,” local military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera told reporters in Marawi shortly before big clouds of black smoke rose from a bombed area near the provincial government building.