KOTA KINABALU: A Malaysian going by the nom de guerre Abu Hizab is being hunted by Philippine security forces combing Marawi City, which has been liberated from Islamic State (IS) militants.
Intelligence sources said Abu Hizab (pic), whose real identity is yet to be established, is believed to be part of the group of slain former Universiti Malaya lecturer-turned-terrorist Dr Mahmud Ahmad in the southern Philippines.
The sources said Abu Hizab could have escaped with another Malaysian militant Mohd Amin Baco @ Abu Jihad during the final military assault to re-capture the city from IS militants trying to establish a caliphate in South-East Asia.
Abu Hizab was not on security forces’ radar in the Philippines and Malaysia until the Marawi siege five months ago.
He is said to be from Peninsular Malaysia and actively involved in religious work before going to southern Philippines.
“We don’t know when he entered the Philippines.
“He has been with Dr Mahmud’s group.
“But he is not a key figure in IS although he was involved in militancy,” an intelligence source said.
The sources said the Malaysian was among the last three or four remaining militants who could have escaped from Marawi with Amin Baco.
Amin Baco, a Sabahan from Tawau, and another Sabahan of Filipino descent, Jeknal Adil @ Jek, 30, were former members of Darul Islam Sabah (DIS), an offshoot of Indonesia's Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiah.
The duo were believed to have facilitated militant travel and firearms smuggling between Indonesia and the Philippines, via Sabah.
The intelligence sources said there was indication that another Filipino from the Pulau Gaya refugees’ settlement off Kota Kinabalu had also joined the militants.
On claims of a militant named Kadaffi Safawi @ Kaddafi Pendek from Perak in Marawi City, sources said he was not a Malaysian.
He is an Indonesian and is called Pendek because of his short and stout build, said a source.
Sometimes, Philippine security forces get confused between Malaysians and Indonesians because of their similar features and names, the source said.