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.