Manila, June 26 (efe-epa).- Four suspected militants of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group were killed in the Philippines on Friday, an official said.
The militants were gunned down in a joint operation of the police and the military in Paranaque, a suburb south of the Manila Metropolitan Area, a spokesperson for the armed forces told EFE.
According to police, officers and soldiers entered a suspected militant hideout to search it but one of the rebels opened fire and all four of them were killed in the ensuing shootout.
The slain militants were identified as Merhama Abdul Sawari alias Mheng, a 40-year-old woman, her husband Bensaudi Sali alias Boy, or Bhenz, 37, Rasmin Hussin alias Boscon and Jamal Kalimming alias Pando.
Officers said they seized four pistols, two hand-grenades, one M16 rifle, various explosive devices, and two black Islamic State flags from the hideout.
Sawari and Sali had been identified by the intelligence department as members of the financial and logistics wing of Abu Sayyaf, which allegedly receives funds directly from other groups affiliated to the Islamic State.
It is believed that Sawari took money from Indonesian terrorist Yoga Fabrianto and used it to finance the terror attack against the Jolo cathedral in 2019, which killed around 20 people in one of the deadliest bombings in the southern Philippines in recent years and was claimed by the IS.
Jolo is the capital of Sulu, an archipelago in the country’s south which forms one of its remotest and relatively inaccessible provinces.
It has become the hideout of around 300 members of the Abu Sayyaf, a group formed in the neighboring Basilan island during the 1990s by foreign militants who had escaped from the middle east
The presence of terror suspects in the capital area has alarmed authorities, who have arrested eight other members of Abu Sayyaf since the beginning of the year.
Currently, the group does not seem to have the capacity to operate outside their area of influence in the southern Philippines, especially in territories known as the Mindanao Muslim region.
“Not even Covid-19 could deter or prevent the terrorists ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) and their cohorts from planning and looking for the opportune time to strike and kill or maim innocent civilians and to destroy massively government infrastructure and private property,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Felimon Santos said in a statement.
Santos highlighted the need to urgently implement a controversial anti-terrorism law – which now only requires the signature of President Rodrigo Dutere to be ratified.
Its critics have warned that it could be used to silence dissidents, as it widens the definition of terrorism and includes powers that have been considered anti-constitutional by some experts. EFE-EPA