Philippine troops kill regional Islamic State spokesman

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
Philippine troops kill regional Islamic State spokesman Philippine troops display an Islamic State flag recovered from a militant position in the southern city of Marawi, June 19, 2017.

Filipino government forces killed a man identified as the spokesman for the East Asia branch of the Islamic State extremist group during a raid in the southern Philippines, military officials said Tuesday.

Troops and intelligence units carried out the “special operation” on Monday near Datu Saudi Ampatuan, a town in Maguindanao province, that led to “the death of Abdulfatah Omar Alimuden, a.k.a. Abu Huzaifah,” the military said in a statement.

“Aside from being the spokesperson of the ISIS-EA, Abu Huzaifah was also in charge of the financial transactions of the Daulah Islamiyah-Philippines to the ISIS Central,” the military said, using an acronym for the East Asia branch of Islamic State and also referring to the Filipino branch of IS.

Troops with the Army’s 601st Brigade, 40th Infantry Battalion and military intelligence units took part in the operation. They launched it based on witness information that the suspect was in a vehicle transporting materials to construct a madrassa, according to authorities.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), based in Zamboanga city, declined to give more information.  

“We are limiting the information about it because of an ongoing operation which we cannot divulge to the media. ... I don’t want to pre-empt our follow-up operation. There are key personalities that we are going after,” Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., the WestMinCom chief, told reporters. 

“That’s all we can say for now, that we conducted a military operation and we neutralized Abdulfatah Omar Alimuden, alias Abu Huzaifah,” he said. 

Rosario could not immediately say how many IS militants remained in the country.

“I’m not sure as to their number but definitely they are small. Compared to one or two years ago, they’re smaller. ... Our effort is continuing to end this terrorist group,” Rosario said of IS in the Philippines.

Alimuden, a native of Maguindanao, had a second role with IS while serving as the East Asia group’s spokesman, according to Maj. Andrew Linao, the military’s regional spokesman.

“He was also the finance officer. The suspect appeared to occupy a high position because he was the conduit in the transfer of financial support to the IS and at the same time considered as a high value target,” Linao said.

“The neutralization is a big blow to IS especially in this part of the region and the operation prevented the group from wreaking havoc.”

In May 2017, hundreds of local pro-IS fighters, backed by cohorts from elsewhere in Asia and from the Middle East, laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi, transforming it into a battle zone. They intended to turn the lakeside town into the IS caliphate in the Southeast Asian region. 

The United States and Australia assisted the Filipino army with intelligence information that helped Philippine government forces bomb IS strongholds around the city, finally dislodging the group on Oct. 23, 2017, after a five-month battle.

The bombings destroyed much of the city. Nearly five years later, many parts remain off limits because the military has not recovered unexploded ordnance. 

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


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