Six Filipinos believed to be members of a local Islamic State branch were killed Friday in a gunbattle with government forces in the southern Philippines, while a seventh suspected militant died in another raid in the region, military officials said.
Arafat Bulacon (alias Maula) a top lieutenant of Dawlah Islamiyah – the Filipino term for Islamic State (IS) – was among the six suspects slain during the raid in Polomolok, a town in South Cotabato province, authorities said.
He was among those wanted for a 2018 bomb attack in General Santos city that injured eight people, they said. Earlier this month, troops killed a militant identified as Bulacon’s accomplice, Jazzer Nilong, in the nearby town of Esperanza.
“Two arrest warrants for murder (were) issued against the suspect at 5 in the morning,” said Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Central. “However, Bulacon and five other cohorts tried to evade the arrest and engaged the troops in a shootout, which resulted in their instantaneous death.”
He said troops recovered an M4 rifle, two 12-gauge shotguns, two .38-caliber revolvers, an AR-15 pistol, an improvised bomb and an IS flag.
Elsewhere, military officials reported that a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant was killed Friday during a raid of a hideout in Basilan province, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The suspect, identified as Hasid Salajim, was killed during the 5:30 a.m. raid, Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga told PNA.
Apart from the bombing attack in General Santos, Bulacon was wanted for crimes in South Cotabato, a mostly agricultural province in Mindanao Island where militants have been recruiting and training fighters over the past several years, Uy said.
“Terrorists have no place here in South-Central Mindanao, so it might be better for you to surrender to the government,” Uy said. “This successful operation can be notably credited to the strong cooperation of communities who are tired of this cycle of violence.”
Abu Sayyaf sub-commander caught
On Thursday, a mid-level Abu Sayyaf Group leader was captured in a mountainous area in Patikul, a town in the far southern Sulu Islands. Amah Ullah, an ASG sub-leader, was taken into custody after being injured in a clash with troops, who were searching for several Indonesians being held hostage by members of the IS-linked militant group, authorities said.
Ullah, who was treated at a military hospital in Jolo town, was to be questioned.
“According to the troops, Ullah refused to surrender and wanted to be killed, but the soldiers instead provided him with first aid,” Vinluan said.
The operations came shortly after the military killed seven members of a pro-IS faction of the Abu Sayyaf, including a militant being groomed to be its new leader, during a high-seas chase off Sulu province on Nov. 3.
Froilan Gallardo and a BenarNews correspondent contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga, Philippines.