Abu Sayyaf Militant Accused of Beheadings Killed in Southern Philippines

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
Abu Sayyaf Militant Accused of Beheadings Killed in Southern Philippines Filipina Marites Flor is seen after she was released by Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants in Jolo, the southern island of Mindanao on June 24, 2016, a week after her Canadian boyfriend was beheaded by the gunmen.

A nephew of the Islamic State leader in the Philippines and an Abu Sayyaf commander accused of beheadings were among four militants killed by security forces in a dawn raid Sunday in the southern Sulu islands, the military said.

Among those slain was Al-Al Sawadjaan, a suspected bomb maker and the youngest brother of Mundi Sawadjaan, the military said. Both men are nephews of Abu Sayyaf commander and IS leader in the Philippines Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

The Sawadjaans have been blamed for orchestrating bomb attacks in Jolo, Sulu’s capital town, including a bombing in August 2020 that left 14 dead and an attack by two Indonesian suicide bombers at Jolo’s cathedral in January 2019 that killed 23.

The target of Sunday’s raid was Injam Yadah, an Abu Sayyaf militant notorious for a string of high profile abductions and beheadings, the military said.

Two other Abu Sayyaf militants, including one identified only as Rauf, were slain. The other has not been identified.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command, said joint security forces from the 35th Infantry Battalion and Sulu Provincial Police Office conducted the raid to serve the warrant of arrest against Yadah before dawn Sunday near the village of Alat.

“As the troops approached the target house, Yadah and his three followers opened fire and triggered the brief firefight which resulted in the instantaneous deaths of the terrorists,” Vinluan said.

Yadah’s wife and the couple’s three children were taken into custody, although Vinluan said the children were subsequently “rescued” and would be turned over to social workers.

Seized from Yadah’s home were ammunition as well as components for making bombs, including 15 mobile phones, Vinluan said.

Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said Yadah was “notorious in beheading captives, both foreign and local who were unable to produce ransom.”

“He has a reputation of being extremely violent - beheading captured innocent civilians and security forces alike. Finally, his hideous acts will now come to a full stop," Gonzales told reporters.

Yadah was accused of being involved in snatching eight Indonesian fishermen in waters off Malaysia in January 2020. Three were immediately released, one was executed in October 2020 and four were rescued by Filipino troops in March 2021.

Yadah was also linked to the kidnapping in 2015 of two Canadian tourists who were later beheaded after a deadline for a ransom payment passed, military officials said.

Gonzales said troops were also closing in on Mundi Sawadjaan.

“His brothers are now all dead and we are optimistic that he will also be neutralized. And when that day comes we can say that we have achieved total peace in the province as the local government and the people here are one with us in this endeavor,” Gonzales said.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to number just about 200 militants, and it operates largely out of Sulu and the nearby island of Basilan. 

One faction is led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who represents the IS in the archipelago after the death of Isnilon Hapilon during the siege of southern Marawi city in 2017. The rest are believed to be engaged in kidnapping-for-ransom and other criminal enterprises.

Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan has not been heard of since last year, and is believed to have died in a clash with the military. His body has never been recovered.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.