Wanted BIFF militant surrenders in southern Philippines

Mark Navales
2022.10.05
Cotabato, Philippines
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Wanted BIFF militant surrenders in southern Philippines Family and supporters hold pictures of some of the 44 Filipino police commandos killed during a recent operation against Southeast Asia’s top terrorist suspect Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir (also known as Marwan), as they join a “Sympathy Walk” in Quezon city, north of Manila, March 8, 2015.
AP Photo/Aaron Favila

An aide to one of the Philippines’ most wanted bomb-makers, the late militant Abdul Basit Usman, has surrendered to authorities in the volatile southern region of Mindanao, officials said Wednesday.

The suspect, identified as Manap Mamaluba, is a member of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militant group and was on the run from authorities for years, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). 

Mamaluba surrendered two weeks ago, but this was only made public after he was subjected to verification and questioning this week, said Nicanor Suarez, spokesman for the investigation bureau.

BIFF is a splinter of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a former separatist guerrilla group whose leaders now control an autonomous region in the southern Philippines. The surrender occurred in the area formally known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BAARM), according to a statement from the bureau.

“The surrender of Mamaluba was made possible through his uncle, a certain Commander Tiger of the MILF,” Suarez said. “Currently, the subject is under the custody of the Municipality of Datu Abdullah Sangki.”

The exact identity of Commander Tiger was not revealed, although he is believed to be one of the field commanders of the MILF in the southern province of Maguindanao, intelligence officials said.

Officials did not release more details about Mamaluba.

His boss, Usman, was a top militant who had made it onto the U.S. State Department’s list of wanted terrorists. Security experts say Usman had trained many militants in bomb making, including those affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah.

JI, an Indonesia-based militant group and the Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda, was blamed for the October 2002 Bali bombings - that country’s deadliest terror attack to date.

In January 2015, Usman escaped a raid by the police Special Action Force (SAF) in the town of Mamasapano in Mindanao that resulted in the death of Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan), a Malaysian terror suspect who was hiding in the southern Philippines.

Forty-four SAF commandos were killed during the botched operation. They became caught in a deadly firefight with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who thought they had come under attack.

The Philippine military killed Usman three months later.

The BIFF, the splinter faction, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group, and many of its members are separately wanted for other crimes, including kidnapping for ransom and extortion.

Col. Abdulrasad Sirajan, the military’s regional spokesman, told BenarNews that their crackdown against Mamaluba’s colleagues was continuing but government forces remained open to those who were willing to surrender.

“Our operation is going on without rest, but on the other hand, we welcome those who want to live a normal life,” he said, adding that about 360 BIFF fighters had surrendered since last year in Maguindanao.

In January 2021, BIFF militants carried out two roadside bombings that killed three people and injured dozens more in the south.

In 2017, hundreds of pro-IS fighters from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere took over the southern Philippine city of Marawi for five months. Some 1,200 people were killed in a battle that ensued between the militants and government forces.

While BIFF did not send guerrillas to join that battle, it launched diversionary attacks at the time, according to officials.  

Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Davao City, Philippines.

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