Security forces have killed a suspected bomb expert working for local militants affiliated with the Islamic State group in the southern Philippines, the military said Friday.
The suspect, identified as Katato Samad, was killed following a clash Wednesday in a remote village of Pikit, a town in North Cotabato province, Lt. Col. Niel Roldan, the local army commander, told reporters.
“Our [soldiers] were responding to reports of armed men sightings, but were attacked along the way,” Roldan said, adding that a brief firefight killed Samad, whose body was taken by his colleagues. Troops later recovered homemade bomb components, ammunition and a motorbike at the site.
Samad was a key member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and had been linked to a series of bomb attacks that damaged power transmission lines in the region five years ago, Roldan said.
Roldan said Samad was the head of BIFF’s special-operations group that deals with production of homemade bombs.
Earlier this week, three BIFF gunmen surrendered and turned over their weapons to the military in Pikit, officials said.
The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), once the country’s largest Muslim separatist group, which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 to end their rebellion of more than three decades.
The MILF now controls an autonomous region in Mindanao, where Muslims form a large minority.
The Philippine military has recovered black Islamic State (IS) flags from suspected camps of the BIFF during recent security raids in the region, officials said.
The BIFF did not join other pro-IS militants in taking over the southern city of Marawi in 2017. However, BIFF members launched deadly diversionary attacks elsewhere in the Philippine south to divert military attention from Marawi, authorities said.
The five-month Marawi siege and an ensuing battle with government forces killed 1,200 people, most of them militants, including fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.