Security forces in the southern Philippines killed a suspected leader of a Filipino pro-Islamic State (IS) group blamed for a bombing that wounded eight people last month, police said Tuesday.
Bassir Sahak, a leader of the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP) group, was killed in a shootout Monday with police who had come to arrest him in Maasim, a town in the far southern province of Sarangani. The suspect’s father, Kupang, managed to escape, authorities said.
Sahak allegedly handled AKP’s finances and was in charge of weapons procurement, regional police commander Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco said.
“He was the direct point man of the Ansar al-Khilafah group,” Rasco told BenarNews, adding that M-16 rifle rounds and bomb components were recovered from Sahak’s hideout.
Sahak’s group was responsible for a bomb attack in nearby General Santos City that injured eight people on Sept. 16. AKP, also known as Ansar Khalifa Philippines or Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, is an IS-sympathizer group in the southern Philippines whose members are mostly trained in building bombs.
AKP did not play a role in last year’s siege of the southern city of Marawi, although it helped in consolidating groups that fought there and was known to actively recruit fighters, officials said.
In March, Indonesian Mushalah Somina Rasim (alias Abu Omar) was captured in the town of Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat province, about 149 km (93 miles) south of Marawi. The 32-year-old is being held by the Philippine immigration bureau in preparation for his deportation.
Sahak’s colleague, AKP leader Jaafar Sabewang Maguid (alias Tokboy) was killed in a firefight with police in January 2017.
Maguid’s group was blamed for a grenade attack that killed a police officer and wounded dozens of civilians in Maasim in 2015.
Authorities said the AKP had been in contact with Filipino militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s main Muslim separatist force that signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.
Last year, militants led by Isnilon Hapilon – the acknowledged Filipino leader of IS Philippines – took over Marawi and engaged security forces in five months of vicious fighting. Military officials said he was backed by an undetermined number of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fighters.
Hapilon along with several Filipino pro-IS leaders were killed in a clash in October, ending the siege that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them militants.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.