Philippine authorities began intensified intelligence gathering on two Filipino terror leaders after 15 suspected terrorists were arrested and prevented from channelling funds from Malaysia to a group in the southern Philippines which has links with Daesh militants, sources said.

“Assessment of data gathered on the two terror leaders and their groups which have declared allegiance to Daesh is being reviewed for stronger pre-emptive response in the Philippines,” a source from the defence department who requested anonymity told Gulf News.

“The updated report will be shared with all nine other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),” said the source. ASEAN is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Placed under “deep intelligence scrutiny” was Shaikh Esmael Abubakar, alias Commander Bongos, who became head of the eight-year old Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato died in 2015, said the source, adding that Abubakar had sworn allegiance to Daesh.

Also under “thorough review” was Isnilon Hapilon, alias Abu Abdullah, of the Abu Sayyaf Group who declared allegiance to Daesh in a recent video uploaded at Achived on January 4, the source said.

Hapilon was named in the video as the new leader of the “Harakatul Islamiyah (Islamic Movement}”.

There were 30 followers in the video including Abu Harith Al-Filibbieni, alleged deputy commander of Daesh’ Al-Ansar Infantry Division; and Mohd Najib Hussain, alias Abu Annas Al Muhajir, alleged division head of Daesh’ Ansar Al-Sharia.

Also in the video were other Malaysians namely Mahmud Ahmad, Mohammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil.

They went to the southern Philippines to recruit fighters for Daesh’ campaign in Iraq and Syria, intelligence reports said.

Last February, the Philippines army’s western Mindanao command claimed Hussain was killed during operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.

The US government has offered a $5 million (Dh18.36 million) reward for Hapilon’s head.

Philippines security forces have denied earlier allegations that Daesh has recruited young Filipino fighters in Mindanao to join the campaign for Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

The 15 recently arrested Malaysians, including a police officer whose nationality was not identified, were allegedly collecting funds for the Philippines group, and for arranging the exit of two foreign terrorists from Malaysia to another ASEAN member country that was not identified, Malaysia’s inspector general Khalid Abu Bakar said in a report.

The key person along the 15 arrested terrorists was identified as Mohammad Wanndy Mohammad Jedi, a Malaysian national recruiting for Daesh in Syria, and the brains behind plans to launch terror attacks in Malaysia, Khalid said.