AFP confident Maute financier among 13 killed in Marawi

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Updated with details from the statement of AFP Chief Eduardo Año

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, October 19) —  A wanted Malaysian national may be among 13 killed in Marawi overnight, the military said Thursday.

Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant who joined the ISIS-inspired Maute group and supposedly funded the Marawi attack is believed to be among the 13 dead, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

AFP Chief Eduardo Año in a statement at around noon said the government is "increasingly becoming confident" that Ahmad was among those killed.

"The process to confirm this with finality, however, is still ongoing. Earlier information regarding this were received from the rescued hostages. We are now working on getting full confirmation," he said.

Two hostages rescued on Wednesday night told troops Ahmad was in the battle zone during the heavy fighting, said Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Joint Task Group Ranao. Six soldiers were wounded. 

Año said seven more hostages were rescued early Thursday, including a mother and her daughter. Troops are trying to rescue around 20 more hostages from the battle zone.

Read: Timeline: The Marawi crisis

The military, however, could not say for certain that all the 13 killed were terrorists.

When asked if hostages forced to fight Maute terrorists could be among the casualties, Brawner said it is possible.

"Posible po yun. According to mga unang grupo ng hostages ginagamit sila na human shield ng mga Maute (That is possible. According to rescued hostages they were being used by the Maute fighters as human shield)," he said.

He said the military is still retrieving the cadavers and will next verify their identities and correct the statistics.

Brawner said as of 6 a.m. on Thursday, 850 terrorists, 163 government troops and 47 civilians have been killed since May 23, when the battle began in Marawi, prompting President President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law throughout Mindanao.

Marawi is the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur and is some 1,500 kilometers south of Manila.

Experts and military said Ahmad may emerge as a new terror leader, following the deaths on Monday of Abu Sayyaf-Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the two founders of the Maute group.

First on CNN Philippines: How were Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute killed?

Their deaths led Duterte to declare Marawi liberated from "terrorist influence" on Tuesday, even as military operations continue to flush fighters out of the city.

The military said it will only take "a matter of days" for the war to end, as terrorists run out of food and ammunition.

More than 350,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting. They have to wait for the military to clear the city from terrorists and explosives before they can return home.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.