Authorities in Southern Philippines Kill BIFF Bomb Maker Murad

Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
170523-BIFF-620.jpg Philippine soldiers patrol a village in the southern province of Maguindanao province after almost a week of clashes with suspected members of the extremist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, May 10, 2017.

A militant and protégé of a feared Filipino bomb maker slain two years ago was himself killed in a gunbattle with authorities in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, the military said.

Murad Ali, a known explosives instructor with the extremist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), was killed while trading fire with members of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the military’s 603rd Infantry Brigade near the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, officials said.

“We will continue to conduct military operations and maximize intelligence monitoring with the assistance of the Philippine National Police, the local government, and the civilians to stop them from continually doing their terroristic activities,” said Col. Jesus Sarsagat of the local Army.

Recovered from Tuesday’s clash were a mortar round, a fragmentation grenade, a machine gun, several blasting caps and tools that could be used to make bombs, the military said.

Regional army chief Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega said Murad was "responsible for terroristic activities in central Mindanao" and was wanted for a string of attacks. Dela Vega did not elaborate.

The BIFF broke away from the MILF three years before the latter signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014. Military officials said many BIFF members were also into criminal activities, including cattle rustling and kidnapping.

Part of the peace agreement is for the MILF to help troops carry out law-enforcement activities in areas it controls.

Dela Vega said Murad was known as the protégé of Bassit Usman, a bomb maker who was known to have links to the extremist Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyan (JI), an Indonesia-based group which had earlier pushed for the establishment of pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Usman played a role in a series of high-profile bombings in the southern Philippines, including a mall attack in 2002 in which 15 people died and dozens were wounded in the southern city of General Santos, 1,621 km (about 1,000 miles) south of Manila, the Philippine capital.

He was captured after the bombing, but escaped days later. He then joined a criminal gang composed of former MILF rebels and was known to have established links to foreign militants operating in the country's vast Mindanao region.

He was also tagged as being behind the bombings in the southern cities of Tacurong and Cotabato in 2006 and 2007 that left two people dead and at least four injured, respectively.

In January 2015, he escaped a government assault that killed Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) in the southern town of Mamasapano.

Clashes that followed left 44 members of the elite police Special Action Force, in an incident that almost led to the collapse of a peace deal with the MILF, which accused Manila of launching an offensive inside their territory without prior coordination.


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