Philippine Troops, Police Kill 8 Rebels in Joint Operations

Karl Romano and Froilan Gallardo
Dagupan and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
180815-PH-sayyaf-620.jpg Government officials inspect a damaged military outpost after a bomb exploded in a van in Lamitan on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, July 31, 2018.

Soldiers and police carried out joint operations in the central and southern Philippines on Wednesday, killing one leader of Abu Sayyaf militants and seven communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas, a military official said.

An operation on the remote island of Jolo in the south was carried out before dawn against Absulajim Abdulgani, a bomb expert and a known sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group, said Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Abdulgani (aka Suraka Ingog) was the highest-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader slain since a suicide bomb attack killed 11 people on the southern island of Basilan two weeks ago, Dela Vega said.

The military initially suspected the Abu Sayyaf group was behind the Basilan bomb attack, but the Islamic State (IS) took responsibility and said it was carried out by a Moroccan national.

Authorities have cautioned against the claim, although the military has captured a Filipino Muslim cleric who allegedly helped foreign fighters enter Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf group was formed in the early 1990s.

The Abu Sayyaf is considered more of a criminal gang engaged in kidnappings, bombings and beheadings during the past two decades.

The U.S. Department of State, which has designated Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization, estimated the group’s armed strength in July 2012 at between 200 and 400 fighters.

One of Abu Sayyaaf’s Basilan commanders, Isnilon Hapilon, later pledged allegiance to the IS and led the siege of southern Marawi city last year. About 1,200 people were killed in the five-month battle that began in May. It was only declared over when the military killed Hapilon and some of the ring leaders in October.

Earlier this week, the military said two soldiers were wounded in a clash with an Abu Sayyaf unit on Jolo.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least one militant was killed and six wounded, the military said.

Clash with New People’s Army

Also on Wednesday, the military carried out joint operations with the police on the central island of Antique, triggering a clash that killed seven members of the communist NPA.

Regional police chief John Bulalacao said security forces were sent to arrest two NPA members on murder charges and for extortion activities in the area, but the guerrillas fought back.

Those killed belonged to the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command of Southern Front, Bulalacao said, adding troops recovered firearms and a list of targets of extortion.

“The suspects who chose to put up a fight against our police and military operatives have been victimizing community members and business owners here,” Bulalacao told BenarNews.

“The extortion letters, assorted firearms, cash and bank books recovered are proof of their criminal activities,” Bulalacao said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging Asia’s longest running insurgency that began in 1969. Peace talks between the group and Manila are suspended.

The government had accused the rebels of plotting to overthrow the government of President Rodrigo Duterte later this year despite negotiating peace.

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison, who lives in self-exile the Netherlands, has denied the allegation and blasted his former student of propagating what he called fantastic lies aimed at stopping the talks.


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