Abu Sayyaf Leader in Basilan Killed, Philippine Military Says

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2020-10-30
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201030-PH-Basilan-bomb-1000.jpg Government forces inspect the site of a car-bomb explosion that killed at least 10 people in Lamitan, a town in the southern Philippine island province of Basilan province, July 31, 2018.
AP

A senior Abu Sayyaf militant suspected of planning a 2018 suicide bomb attack on Basilan Island in the southern Philippines was killed in a firefight with government forces last month, the military belatedly confirmed Friday.

Officials disclosed the news of Furuji Indama’s death a day after a suspected militant, identified as Botak Kerok and who was believed to be his close aide, was killed during a firefight in Ungkaya Pukan, a remote town on Basilan.

“Furuji Indama was killed on September 9 by the tracking forces following their initial encounter,” a few days earlier, Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), told BenarNews.

Furuji Indama took over command of the Basilan unit of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a pro-Islamic State organization, in 2017.

He succeeded Isnilon Hapilon, an ASG commander who then also headed the Philippine branch of IS, and who led hundreds of fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East in sacking the southern Philippine city of Marawi in May of that year. Hapilon was killed toward the end of a five-month battle there with government forces

Vinluan said Indama’s body was not recovered after the shootout “but ground intelligence reports were very consistent that Indama was killed.”

“Some of his personal belongings that were recovered during the encounter have been turned over to his relatives, who also confirmed that he was killed,” Vinluan said.

However, the regional military commander did not say why the Philippine armed forces disclosed the news only on Friday, or more than a month after the encounter that took Indama’s life.

Indama was among 18 Abu Sayyaf members who were charged for a suicide bombing on Basilan in July 2018, when the driver of a van packed with explosives rammed it through a security checkpoint, killing himself and 10 other people. Three Abu Sayyaf men involved in the attack were arrested, but Indama escaped to Basilan’s jungle-clad interior.

In early September, troops from the 44th Infantry Battalion fought Indama’s group in a gunbattle as the militants were plotting to launch a kidnapping raid across a channel in the nearby Zamboanga Peninsula, officials said.

Indama was among five Abu Sayyaf militants killed in that clash, but his identity was only recently confirmed and verified by a military intelligence unit, according to Vinluan.

Vinluan said troops intercepted Kerok and two other Abu Sayyaf members on Thursday as they were riding together on a motorcycle, armed with an M60 machine gun. A shootout broke out that lasted five minutes, during which Kerok was fatally wounded.

“The neutralized personality was onboard a motorcycle along with two of his comrades when they were intercepted by the operating troops of the 101st Infantry Brigade and the 18th Infantry Battalion, and the firefight ensued,” Vinluan said.

“The troops recovered the dead body of Botak [Kerok], one M60 machine gun, and one motorcycle at the clash site,” he said.

As of Friday, however, the whereabouts of the two other Abu Sayyaf suspects were unknown.

“Our operating troops continue to scour the area to arrest the companions of Bero,” said Col. Domingo Gobway, the commander of Joint Task Force Basilan, according to a report by the state-run Philippine News Agency.

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