If reports say that Dr. Mahumud Ahmad is already dead, then who will replace Isnilon Hapilon as the next ISIS-inspired leader of Southeast Asia?
Ahmad is a Malaysian national and a former lecturer of University of Malaya and is known to be Hapilon's supposed successor. He is known as a person with strong charisma among his comrades and is known for his ability to facilitate the unification of ISIS-inspired organizations in the Philippines, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute Terrorist Group and the Ansar al-Khilafah who all pledged allegiance to ISIS in Syria.
Military intelligence reports claimed that Ahmad was also the alleged financier and recruiter of the Marawi attack that earned the loyalty and respect of small terror cells. More than 1,000 militants who raided Marawi not only included local terrorists but also militants coming from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East.
As 27 more armed militants were killed in the recent military operations against the remaining militant fighters in Marawi, with14 of those bodies retrieved.
Two hostages rescued from the militant group were the ones who claimed that among those killed in the heavy fighting was Dr. Ahmad but military authorities said they will only confirm if Dr. Ahmad was dead if his body is retrieved. The Philippine military needs the expertise of the Scene of the Crime agents from the Philippine National Police to retrieve the corpse of the militants and to confirm the identities of the body.
While there has been no successor yet, Philippine government authorities warned that the leaderless group could possibly execute retaliatory attacks and the Philippine government is now strengthening its intelligence community to thwart possible attacks from armed sympathisers.
Historically, the Abu Sayyaf Group has one of the fastest leadership turnovers among the militant groups in the Philippines. Hapilon is one of the last Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders after Abdurajak Janjalani was killed in December 1998. Janjalani was the founding leader of the Abu Sayyaf but decades later, Hapilon, as a sub-leader, got the support of his comrades and eventually became the leader of the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf that resorted to kidnapping, extorting and killing of kidnap victims.
The military authorities have announced that they are now monitoring movements as to who will be the successor of Hapilon and if reports were true that Ahmad is already dead, the militant group could have a tough challenge as to who will lead the ISIS-inspired militant group in Southeast Asia.
The defence ministry offices of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have been frequently meeting to address the growing expansion of armed militant groups whose ideology is attracting more young people in the region. The Indonesia
According to the Indonesia defence ministry, there are 1,200 ISIS-inspired militants throughout the Philippines while there are also sympathisers based in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.