Malaysian militant Amin Baco believed dead in Marawi

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — The military said Monday they believe Amin Baco, whom Police have tagged as the new ISIS emir in Southeast Asia, was killed in Marawi. 

Contrary to the Philippine National Police's (PNP) statement saying Baco is the new leader of the terror group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they believe Baco is dead.

"The AFP strongly believes that the group is now leaderless and without direction," the military said in a statement.

"Amin Baco is believed to have been among those killed in Marawi recently. Baco's remains is now the subject of an ongoing aggressive search," it added.

Earlier on the same day, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa said in a press briefing they believe Baco has assumed leadership of ISIS in Southeast Asia and may have left the main battle area already.

"We have received reports na yung remaining doon sa grupo na si Amin Baco na nag-assume as the new Emir mostly likely on his way out, baka nakalabas na doon (sa main battle area) but unconfirmed," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: We have received reports Amin Baco, one of the remaining in the group, who also assumed as the new Emir, is most likely on his way out. He might be out of the main battle area, but this is not yet confirmed.]

In an earlier reaction to the PNP's statement, Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said the military believes Baco is among nine Maute stragglers killed in the main battle area in Marawi on Sunday.

"We have to verify DNA, I have yet to consult ground commanders," Galvez said.

Aside from Baco, the military is also on the lookout for Abdulla Hapilon, the son of killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

"I gave the direction to our ground commanders that once we we get Amin Baco and Hapilon, we already break the chain, of the Maute-ISIS and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao," Galvez added.

But if he is alive, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Baco will not be able to mount an attack similar to that in Marawi.

"Sa tingin ko (in my opinion), he can no longer mass that number of troops na kaya ni Isnilon na dalhin sa Marawi, about close to a thousand fighters, fully-equipped and fully-armed and fully-supplied with ammunition," Lorenzana said.

A former member of terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, Baco was with Malaysian terrorist leader Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan in Mindanao before Marwan was killed during the botched 2015 Mamasapano operation.

PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Fernando Mendez said Baco is the longest-staying foreign terrorist in the country.

Jakarta-based Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said Baco is a recruit of alleged Maute financier Dr. Mahmud Amad, who was also killed in Marawi on October 19.

IPAC said Baco pledged allegiance to ISIS with Isnilon Hapilon in 2015, quoting Malaysian media.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles, David Santos,Yvette Morales, and Amanda Lingao contributed to this report.