Monday, September 28, 2020

Sayyaf killed in Sulu; bomber captured in Zamboanga (WARNING: Contains graphic images)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Army soldiers killed an Abu Sayyaf fighter in a clash Monday in Sulu province while a bomber was captured in Zamboanga City, all in southern Philippines, officials said. 


Photos released by the military to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show the body of the slain Abu Sayyaf fighter and personal belongings recovered by soldiers following Monday's battle in Sulu's Patikul town. 

Officials said members of the 45th Infantry Battalion tracked down an Abu Sayyaf hideout in the remote village of Maligay in Patikul town and engaged the terrorists in a battle that lasted nearly an hour.

Brig. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade, described the fighting as heavy with soldiers battling about 30 gunmen. He said the terrorists split into several groups and escaped, leaving the body of the slain militant.

He said more troops were sent to the town to pursue the terrorists. “We immediately deployed more troops to establish blockade and pursuit operations,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ruben Guinolbay, the battalion commander, said they have recovered the body of the unidentified terrorist, but there could be more casualties on the Abu Sayyaf side after his group discovered bloodstains in the hideout and several escape routes used by the pro-ISIS group, blamed for the spate of terror attacks in the province.

“The enemies possibly incurred more casualties as evident in the bloodstains in the encounter site,” he said.

Bomber

The fighting occurred a day after police commandos captured an Abu Sayyaf bomber with links to ISIS in the coastal village of Recodo in Zamboanga City.

The terrorist, Hajili Banah, was tracked down by members of the 82nd Special Action Company and police intelligence agents. Seized from his hideout were a gallon of ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil), nine blasting caps, five meters of detonating cord, one fragmentation grenade, and his backpack.

He is facing a string of murder charges and is being linked by authorities to suicide attacks by ISIS soldiers in Basilan and Sulu provinces.

Police photo of Hajili Banah / Hashim Saripada

Banah, who uses the nom de guerre Hashim Saripada, planned the suicide attack in Lamitan City in Basilan in July 2018. A Moroccan ISIS soldier Abu Katheer al Maghribi exploded his van filled with explosives at a military checkpoint. ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that left over a dozen casualties.

Banah, a follower of Abu Sayyaf leader Hajan Sawadjaan, also facilitated the twin suicide attacks by an Indonesian couple on a Catholic cathedral in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo in January 2019 that killed at least 22 mostly soldiers.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, praised the Banah’s capture. “The arrest of Saripada will greatly debilitate the group particularly in the planning and execution of their bomb ploys,” he said, without further elaborating.

It was not immediately known whether Banah was planning an attack in Zamboanga, but Mayor Beng Climaco earlier warned the public that Abu Sayyaf terrorists under Sawadjaan may strike in Zamboanga Peninsula.

She said Zamboanga remains under heightened alert because of threats of bombings by the Abu Sayyaf following August twin suicide attacks in Jolo that left dozens of casualties.

Because of the threats, Climaco said security forces launched a massive hunt for 2 Indonesians and a Filipino terrorist who would carry out the attacks. She also released the photos of the terrorists and warned the public to keep on the lookout for the trio.

She said the government has offered a P3 million rewards for the capture of the Indonesian Andi Baso and his female partner Reski Fantasya; and Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan, who is being linked to the recent twin suicide bombings in Jolo town in the neighboring province of Sulu.

“Authorities warn the public against 3 members of the Sulu-based ASG believed to have been sent out for a mission to sow terror in Zamboanga Peninsula. The national government is offering a reward of P3 million for the information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of each of the suspects,” Climaco said in an advisory alongside photos of the terrorists.

The photos were provided by the military’s anti-terror Joint Task Force Zamboanga which also called on the public to stay vigilant. “The community is advised to be vigilant and immediately report any suspicious person / local terrorist,” it said. (Zamboanga Post and Mindanao Examiner. With a report from Rhoderick BeƱez.)