Philippine Troops Kill Suspect from Islamic State-Affiliated Group

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato, Philippines
2021-07-19
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Philippine Troops Kill Suspect from Islamic State-Affiliated Group Philippine soldiers stand next to a road being constructed in an area that was a main battleground in 2017 when Islamic State-inspired militants laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi, May 23, 2021.
[AFP]

Government troops killed a suspected member of the Islamic State militant group’s Philippine branch and captured two others during an operation in southern Maguindanao province at the weekend, the military said Monday.

Soldiers were checking on reports about Dawlah Islamiyah-Hassan Group suspects being present in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town when the suspects shot at them on Saturday morning, precipitating a gunbattle, said Lt. Col. Benjamin Cadiente, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion.

“While troops were approaching the reported location of the terrorists, they were fired upon by an undetermined number of Dawlah Islamiyah-Hassan Group members, which forced the soldiers to retaliate,” Cadiente said in a statement, using the Philippine name for the Islamic State (IS) group led by Salahuddin Hassan.

A suspect identified only as “Tong Bomber” was killed in the shootout, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency. He was a bomb expert believed to be responsible for attacks against military convoys and installations in Maguindanao, the PNA report said.

“He was killed following the 7 a.m. encounter in Barangay Nabundas, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town,” PNA quoted Cadiente as saying in his incident report to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander.

A soldier was wounded in Saturday’s incident, but was out of danger after receiving medical treatment, the military said.

The three suspects allegedly belonged to a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Hassan, which has pledged allegiance to IS.

BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 and controls a Muslim autonomous area in the south.  

Other Dawlah Islamiyah cells have worked with a faction that was behind a five-month siege of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, by pro-IS Filipino fighters and militants from other countries in 2017.

In January, BIFF militants allegedly carried out two roadside bombings in the south that killed three and injured scores of people.

In May, BIFF briefly took over a southern town, but bloodshed was averted when they left after a tense standoff.

During a trip to the south soon after, President Rodrigo Duterte warned Muslim leaders he would have to wage an all-out war similar, if local authorities did not rein in the militants.

Since January 2021, government forces have captured or slain some 150 militant suspects, of whom 19 were from DI and 131 from BIFF.

Mark Navales and Richel V. Umel contributed reporting from Cotabato, Philippines.

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