Islamic State leader for Southeast Asia killed in Marawi

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Islamic State leader for Southeast Asia killed in Marawi Soldiers commute on a military truck past destroyed buildings in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on May 23, 2019.

The Islamic State group’s emir for Southeast Asia was one of two suspected militants killed during a pre-dawn raid in the south of the Philippines on Wednesday, the country’s military said.

Faharudin Hadji Satar (also known as Abu Zacharia) died in the military operation in Marawi, Lanao del Sur province, according to Col. Billy de la Rosa, assistant commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade. The lakeside city was the site of a five-month battle between pro-IS fighters and the Philippine military before government forces broke the militants’ siege of Marawi in October 2017.

Zacharia succeeded Owaida Marohombsar (also known as Abu Dar) as the leader of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group sometime in March 2019, according to authorities. Daulah Islamiyah (DI) means Islamic State in the local language.

DI militant Abu Morshid was also killed and a soldier injured by a grenade during the fighting, the military said. Troops recovered a small cache of improvised explosives after storming Zacharia’s rented apartment.

The operation showed the government’s determination to eliminate Islamic radicalism, especially that propagated by IS, said Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the army’s Western Mindanao Command.

“It’s a reminder for those who espouse radicalism to become deradicalized, because the government will go after them,” Galido told reporters.

Zacharia was among 10 individuals designated as a terrorist by the Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Council in February 2021 “for conspiring, planning and preparing for the commission of terrorism.”

He was a lieutenant of former IS emir for the region Isnilon Hapilon, helping execute the siege of Marawi. The fighting between the militants and government forces destroyed the city and left 1,200 militants, government forces and civilians dead.

Little is known about Zacharia, except that he is a nephew of the late Alim Abdul Aziz Mimbantas, a former ranking leader in the southern Lanao region of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a defunct rebel group based in the southern Philippines. The MILF, which has ceased to be a rebel force after signing a peace deal with Manila in 2014, now controls an autonomous area in the south that includes Marawi.

Galido said IS militants were now operating in “small groups” in southern Philippine jungles, and included fighters from across Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

But he said it was important the head of IS for the region had been “neutralized.”

Maj. Andrew Linao, the regional military spokesman, said that while Zacharia’s death did not automatically mean the end of the IS in the south, it was a major blow for its operations.

Wednesday’s raid came weeks after the capture of seven IS members who provided vital intelligence information for security forces, Linao added.

Drieza Liningding, a leader of the Marawi Consensus group, said they woke Wednesday morning to the sight of soldiers backed by armored personnel tanks  searching the village of Bangonfor companions of Zacharia who escaped in the raid.

“The entire village of barangay Bangon is still on lockdown,” Liningding told BenarNews by telephone. His group is composed of former Marawi residents still displaced, six years after the battle.

Roel Pareño contributed reporting from Zamboanga City, southern Philippines  


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