Philippine Govt Forces Kill Top IS Militant, Wife in Mindanao Raid

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2021-10-29
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Philippine Govt Forces Kill Top IS Militant, Wife in Mindanao Raid Authorities display the covered bodies of Salahuddin Hassan, a suspected senior Islamic State militant, and his wife after they were killed during a dawn raid by government forces in Talayan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, Oct. 29, 2021.
Courtesy Armed Forces of the Philippines

A senior Filipino militant described as the overall leader of the so-called Islamic State in the Philippines was killed along with his wife in a clash on Friday with police and the military in the country’s south, authorities said.

Salahuddin Hassan previously was identified as a top lieutenant in the southern Mindanao region under the command of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the leader of the Philippine IS branch of Islamic State (IS). Military intelligence officials have said they believe Sawadjaan was killed in a clash last year although his body has not been recovered, and that Hassan has played a more active role since then.

“Hassan or alias Orak is the overall Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) leader not just in central Mindanao but in the country,” said Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, the local infantry commander, using the Arabic name that Filipinos use to refer to IS.

“He was involved in many terror activities and bombings, targeting business establishments and businessmen and exacting extortion money.”

Hassan and his wife were killed during a dawn raid in Talayan, a town near a vast Maguindanao province marshland where militants are known to hide, Uy said.

“With his death we are expecting more of his followers to come out and surrender peacefully,” said Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

Hassan’s group has been blamed for attacks including a bombing at a night market in Davao City that killed 15 people and injured scores of others in 2016. In separate raids, authorities arrested 10 IS militants who were convicted of murder in September 2020 for their roles in the bombing.

In May 2020, Philippine counter-terrorism analyst Rommel Banlaoi wrote that the Hassan-led group “has emerged to become the most active in conducting terrorist bombings in Mindanao.”

In an analysis piece at the time for Eurasia Review, Banlaoi said Hassan developed bomb-making skills after he joined pro-IS followers in Central Mindanao in 2012. When one of his mentors, Basit Usman, was killed during a military operation in 2015, Hassan joined a cell of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group to establish Dawlah Islamiyah.

“The military calls his group Hassan Salahuddin Group or Dawlah Islamiyah Salahuddin Group (DI-SG) with around 10 followers trained in bomb making,” Banlaoi wrote last year.

He blamed Hassan’s group for bombings in late August and early September 2018 in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province.

On Friday, spokesman Baldomar said Hassan was responsible for two bus bombings in southern Cotabato City early this year that killed three people.

The military expects Hassan’s followers to disperse, surrender or join up with other Muslim militant factions operating in the south, including under the BIFF, Baldomar said.

The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was the country’s largest separatist group before its leaders signed a peace deal with the government in exchange for self-rule in the south.

The BIFF itself is divided into smaller groups, one of which is led by Abu Turaife, who also publicly pledged allegiance to the IS.

It backed a five-month siege of Marawi, a city in another part of the south that was carried out by Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern pro-IS fighters beginning in May 2017, but held off from sending BIFF fighters. About 1,200 militants, government forces and civilians were killed there, including Isnilon Hapilon, who was considered the regional IS emir.

Regional and Filipino intelligence officials have said that after the militants were pushed out of Marawi, they retreated to other parts of Mindanao and have recruited young fighters to replenish their ranks, especially children of dead Muslim fighters.

Hassan’s attacks were concentrated in central Mindanao and were separate from Sawadjaan’s, which aimed to sow terror on the island of Jolo farther south, according to authorities.

In 2019, 23 people were killed in an attack on a church in Jojo, including an Indonesian couple who carried out the twin-suicide bomb attack. The next year, a similar bombing near the cathedral left 14 dead.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales in Cotabato, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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