Philippine military says Abu Sayyaf leader still alive

A soldier stands guard in Marawi City. The Philippines has faced several terror threats in the past years. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 11 July 2020

Philippine military says Abu Sayyaf leader still alive

  • Sawadjaan, who heads the ASG faction affiliated with Daesh, has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu Island last year

MANILA: The Philippine military on Friday said that one of the senior leaders of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Mindanao is still alive.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana told foreign media that Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan was still “very active,” as he responded to questions about reports that Sawadjaan had died from gunshot wounds sustained during an encounter Monday with Army Scout Rangers on Sulu Island.
Westmincom spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas told Arab News that Sawadjaan was still alive but seriously injured in the firefight that left five other Abu Sayyaf fighters dead.
Earlier reports quoted police as saying that Sawadjaan had succumbed to the wounds sustained during the 30-minute shootout with the military in the hinterlands of Patikul, Sulu. He was also reportedly buried by his followers and nephew, Mundi Sawadjaan.
Sawadjaan, who heads the ASG faction affiliated with Daesh, has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu Island last year.
The first attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo town in Jan. 2019 killed 23 people, including an Indonesian couple who carried out the bombing, and wounded 109 others.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan is still ‘very active,’ said Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana while responding to questions about reports that Sawadjaan had died from gunshot wounds sustained during an encounter Monday with Army Scout Rangers on Sulu island.

• Sawadjaan has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu island last year.

The second bombing, which targeted an army counterterrorism unit brigade in Indanan town, killed eight people and injured 22. It was also the first officially confirmed case of a suicide bombing carried out by a Filipino, identified as Norman Lasuca, in the Philippines.
Responding to a question on the engagement between Daesh and Islamist militant groups in Mindanao such as the ASG, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Daulah Islamiyah, Sobejana said there used to be a high intensity of engagement between local militant groups and Daesh.
“But this time, this has been reduced due to the killing of Abu Talha, one of the conduits,” Sobejana said, referring to Talha Jumsah’ alias Abu Talha, a Daesh-trained bomb expert who also served as a conduit for the global terror network and the ASG. Abu Talha was killed in a military operation in November last year.
“What is left right now is Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan. While he is still very active, he is quite old,” Sobejana said.
Sawadjaan also oversaw the kidnapping of Arab News’ Asia bureau chief, Baker Atyani, in 2012 when he was working as a correspondent for Al-Arabiya.
The US has included Sawadjaan in its list of global terrorists. He was also tagged as the acting emir of Daesh in the Philippines.


India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

Updated 5 min 13 sec ago

India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

  • Disease trajectory varies widely across India with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas
NEW DELHI: As India hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, crossing 2 million cases and more than 41,000 deaths, community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas.
Even as India has maintained comparatively low mortality rates, the disease trajectory varies widely across the country with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas, where resources are scarce or nonexistent.
The Health Ministry reported 62,538 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s total to 2,027,074. Also, 886 people died, for a total of 41,585.
The ministry said that recoveries were also growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2 percent is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries. The rate in the US is 3.3 percent, and in Brazil 3.4 percent, Johns Hopkins University figures showed.
The caseload in the world’s second-most populous country has quickly expanded since the government began lifting a months-long lockdown hoping to jump-start a moribund economy. India is projecting negative economic growth in 2020.
Life cautiously returned to the streets of the capital of New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, which appear to have passed their peaks.
But state and local governments elsewhere in India were reimposing lockdowns after sharp spikes in cases.
Around 900,000 members of an all-female community health force began a two-day strike on Friday, protesting that they were being roped in to help with contact tracing, personal hygiene drives and in quarantine centers, but weren’t given personal protective equipment or additional pay, according to organizer A.R. Sindhu.
The health workers, known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA, which means ‘hope’ in several Indian languages, have been deployed in each village on behalf of the Health Ministry. Their work ranges from escorting children to immunization clinics to counseling women on childbirth.
But while their regular work hasn’t reduced, they are increasingly being involved by state governments in the fight against the pandemic, said Sindhu.
“But ASHA workers don’t have masks or PPEs or even sanitizers,” she said.
She added that although the work has increased and become more dangerous, their salaries remain static at roughly 2,000 rupees ($27) per month And the families of at least a dozen women who she said died from the virus didn’t receive compensation from India’s federal insurance for front-line health care workers because their deaths were not recorded as COVID-19 deaths.
Manisha Verma, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.