Philippine police hunt for 6 IS-linked militants in officers’ killings

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
Philippine police hunt for 6 IS-linked militants in officers’ killings A Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrilla observes traffic inside Darapanan, the group’s main camp in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, Oct. 14, 2020.
Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews

Six members of a militant group linked to Islamic State extremists were responsible for killing a police chief and his aide during a roadside ambush in the southern Philippines earlier this week, and a manhunt is under way, officials said Friday.

National police chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. told reporters he had directed officers to coordinate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s former largest separatist group that controls a Muslim autonomous region in the south, to catch the suspects in the attack in Maguindanao province.

The suspects are believed to be former MILF guerrillas who joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group that has rejected the regional peace process with the government and is allied with a Philippine faction of the Islamic State (IS) group. 

“Our hot pursuit operation is ongoing. As far as the identification of the suspects, they are BIFF. I have directed our men to file the case against these perpetrators,” Azurin said without identifying each individual. 

The suspects were blamed for killing police Lt. Col. Reynaldo Samson and his aide, Cpl. Salipudin Endab, outside of Ampatuan town on Tuesday. Three other police officers were injured in the ambush and ensuing firefight.

Samson was the local chief of police.

The officers were on their way to arrest a drug trafficker identified as Abdulnasser Guianid, who was believed to have close ties with militant organizations, police said.  

The six suspects involved in the ambush also have existing arrest warrants, Azurin said. 

“Right now, we are still waiting for the response of the MILF who have to show sincerity because we have signed the peace pact,” Azurin said.

As part of a pact agreed to under a peace deal struck between Manila and the MILF in 2014, officers can enter the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front controls. 

“They should help the (national) government, which has already accommodated them. This time, we need reciprocity from them. So surrendering these people is part of that reciprocity that we are expecting,” he said. 

Senior MILF member Mohagher Iqbal, who served as the former rebel group’s chief peace negotiator, said the suspects are not members of the MILF, but of the splinter group.

“Rest assured, our men on the ground will assist authorities in hunting down the suspects behind the ambush,” he told BenarNews. 

Abdulraof Macacua, another senior MILF member, said its forces were directed to cooperate with police and the military if troops are dispatched to MILF strongholds to search for the suspects.

In a separate statement, BARMM spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo denied any MILF involvement in the attack.  

“The MILF has nothing to do with it,” he said.


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