Philippines: IS Sub-Leader Killed in Marawi

Froilan Gallardo and Jeoffrey Maitem
Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato, Philippines
2021-04-12
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Philippines: IS Sub-Leader Killed in Marawi Soldiers walk inside the remnants of a building in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao nearly two years after a militant siege destroyed much of the city, May 23, 2019.
AFP

A joint army and police team killed a sub-leader of the local chapter of the Islamic State (IS) group during fighting Monday in the southern Philippine city of Marawi in which eight government forces were also injured, authorities said. 

Filipino militant Usop Nasif (also known as Abu Asraf) exploded an improvised bomb to thwart a platoon of soldiers and four teams of police in the Guimba section of Marawi, said Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo, the commanding general of the 103rd Infantry Brigade. 

“Nasif fired at the team, forcing the soldiers and policemen to shoot back and execute close-quarter battle maneuvers to get near him,” Cuerpo said, adding, “Nasif was killed.”

The explosion injured one army officer and seven police, he said. Authorities said they were all out of danger as of late Monday. 

Later, troops found Nasif’s body in one of the houses he shared with his wife and 6-month-old baby, who both suffered injuries and were rushed to a hospital, the military said, adding they were declared out of danger and were transferred to the care of local social workers. 

“We figured Nasif went home so he could spend the Ramadan with his wife and child, but his neighbors reported his presence to the authorities,” Cuerpo said. 

Top IS lieutenant 

Nasif was identified as the second-in-command to the new Dawlah Islamiya-Maute group leader, Faharudin Hadji Satar (also known as Abu Bakar or Abu Zacaria), Cuerpo said. 

The dead militant allegedly was behind the execution-style killing in October 2019 of a member of the army’s engineering battalion who was working on a project to rehabilitate Marawi. Nasif also allegedly planned the killings of two soldiers and three police in Marawi last year and of three construction workers at a government resettlement site in 2020, Cuerpo said. 

Much of Marawi in the southern Philippines has remained in ruins since 2017 after Filipino IS members backed by their counterparts from Southeast Asia and the Middle East laid siege to the Islamic city in an effort to establish a regional caliphate. 

This triggered a five-month battle that led to about 1,200 deaths of enemy combatants, soldiers and civilians. Much of the city was destroyed in aerial bombings by government forces.

A few militants escaped and retreated to jungle areas in the south where they have been monitored recruiting new members. Since then, small-scale attacks including bombings have occurred in parts of the south. 

Usop Nasif, who was killed in a gun battle with police and troops, is seen posing on a motorcycle in this undated photo. [Handout Westmincom]
Usop Nasif, who was killed in a gun battle with police and troops, is seen posing on a motorcycle in this undated photo. [Handout Westmincom]
More troops deployed 

Recently, attacks blamed on local IS groups have increased is the province of Maguindanao, as  members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have engaged in sporadic battles with troops, according to authorities. 

Regional military spokesman Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar told BenarNews by phone on Monday that up to 5,000 new soldiers were deployed to focus on Maguindanao, whose remote marshlands and hard-to-access jungles are traditional hiding grounds for militants. 

Baldomar said the deployment of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) to augment other security sectors fighting the BIFF was completed over the weekend. 

“They were involved in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf group from 2019 until 2020 and have significantly contributed to the neutralization of local and foreign terrorists,” Baldomar said. 

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of militants known for kidnappings for ransom and for beheading some of their victims. The group is divided into several units, including one that had been led by Isnilon Hapilon, who was among those launching the Marawi siege in 2017. 

Hapilon, who died as the siege was nearing an end, was known to have been replaced by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose unit carried out suicide bombings on southern Jolo island that left scores dead over the past two years. 

The Abu Sayyaf has an alliance with the BIFF, whose members pledged allegiance to the IS but did not send fighters to Marawi. 

On Monday, a soldier and a civilian were injured when a roadside bomb linked to the Abu Sayyaf exploded in Tipo-Tipo on the island of Basilan. Both were rushed to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to authorities.

Basilan is considered the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf, which was founded in the 1990s by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani.

Regional army commander Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, who welcomed the additional troops on April 6, said they would help in efforts to maintain peace and order in this part of the country and to assist local officials in their development initiatives.

“This is part of our commitment to the residents of South-Central Mindanao to always serve the people and to secure the communities from any threat. These modernized forces are highly capable and can be rapidly deployed to adapt to any situation and address any threat in the country,” Uy said. 

The deployment came after government security forces killed nearly 20 BIFF members during clashes in March.

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