Jolo church bombing suspect killed in clashes with Philippines troops

Soldiers at the scene after two bombs exploded outside a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in southern Philippines, on Jan. 27. (AP Photo)
Updated 09 April 2019

Jolo church bombing suspect killed in clashes with Philippines troops

  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to crush the ASG, one day after the Jolo church attack that killed 23 people and wounded more than 100 in January this year
  • The ASG, listed by the US since 1997 as a foreign terrorist organization, is one of the most violent terrorist groups in the Philippines

MANILA: Two fighters from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), one of them a suspect in the Jolo cathedral bombings in January this year, were killed in clashes with government troops in the island province of Sulu, the military said on Tuesday.

A statement released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Sulu identified the dead ASG fighters as Barak Ingog and Nasser Sawadjaan.

“The terrorists left behind two ASG killed, namely — Barak Ingog, one of the facilitators of the Jolo Cathedral twin bombings; and Nasser Sawadjaan, a nephew of ASG leader Hatib Sawadjaan,” excerpts from the statement read.

Besides Ingog and Sawadjaan, the military said a third Abu Sayyaf bandit, believed to be a high-value sub-leader, was also reportedly killed in the clashes.

“Further, a high-value ASG sub-leader was monitored to be missing and presumed dead by the ASG themselves as monitored by the AFP intelligence units,” the statement said.

The identity of the ASG sub-leader was not disclosed as the military have yet to validate the information. At the time of reporting, clearing and pursuit operations were continuing.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to crush the ASG, one day after the Jolo church attack that killed 23 people and wounded more than 100 in January this year.

The ASG, listed by the US since 1997 as a foreign terrorist organization, is one of the most violent terrorist groups in the Philippines. It is involved in kidnappings-for-ransom, bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations and extortion.

In 2014, Isnilon Hapilon, a senior ASG leader and one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists, had sworn allegiance to Daesh.

Hapilon, who was the leader of Daesh in the Philippines, was killed by government forces in 2017 in the final days of the Marawi siege.

In February this year, a US Department of Defense’s quarterly report on Operation Pacific Eagle — Philippines said that Hatib Sawadjaan was presumably the new leader of Daesh in the Philippines.


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.