The New Face of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia

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The New Face of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia

What do we know about the man supposedly leading Islamic State’s East Asia branch?

The New Face of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia

The last official set of photos to come from ISEA pledging to the new caliph clearly has one person in front but he is masked.

Credit: Screenshot courtesy of TRAC

Not much was known about the Islamic State’s new leader for its so-called East Asia province, which encompasses Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and, according to a terrorism monitor, also Thailand. The Diplomat has recently learned the background and source of radicalization of the leader, best known by his nom de guerre Abu Zacharia, the chief of an IS-supporting terror outfit in the the southern Philippines known as the Maute group.

On March 2, 2022, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that Abu Zacharia, whose real name is Jer Mimbantas, is the new Southeast Asian emir of the Islamic State. He is also known as Faharudin Hadji Satar.

Who Is Abu Zacharia?

Abu Zacharia succeeded Owaida Marohombsar, known by his nickname Abu Dhar. Like Abu Zacharia, Abu Dhar was also the leader of the Maute group. He was killed in Lanao del Norte province in March 2019.

The top military official who made the recent announcement said Abu Zacharia was part of the Maute group that laid siege to Marawi city in Lanao del Sur province in May 2017 and fought government forces in a five-month battle, during which some 1,200 people, mostly militants, died and much of the city was destroyed.

Then-Southeast Asian emir of the Islamic State, Isnilon Hapilon, who was also a leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group (ASG), and a Maute group leader, Omar Maute, were the siege leaders. They were killed during a historic ambush toward the end of the siege in October 2017. 

An Indonesian government-affiliated terrorism researcher, Ulta Levenia Nababan, told The Diplomat that Abu Zacharia was a nephew of the late Alim Abdul Aziz Mimbantas, the vice chairman for military affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a former insurgent group that is now friendly with the Philippine government.

“He’s a member of the Mimbantas clan, which is quite famous in Butig in Lanao province, and also in Marawi,” said Ulta, a lead researcher of terrorism and political violence at think tanks Galatea and Semar Sentinel.

But “the Mimbantas family is against Abu Zacharia’s terrorist idelogy,” stressed Ulta.