MANILA, Philippines | Amid loss of leaders, unknown militant rises in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine and U.S. officials say a little-known militant has been named the new leader of the Islamic State group in the southern Philippines.

The Philippine interior secretary says the rise of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan (SAWA’-jahn) shows that ISIS would latch on desperately to any militant who could provide a sanctuary and armed fighters as its last strongholds crumble in Syria.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano says intelligence indicates Sawadjaan, a Jolo-based commander of the brutal Abu Sayyaf extremist group in his 60s, was installed as ISIS chief in a ceremony last year. He says three other extremist groups were also recognized as ISIS allies.

Sawadjaan is blamed for orchestrating a suicide bombing in a cathedral last month that killed 23 people on Jolo Island.

By JIM GOMEZ , Associated Press