Philippines confirms death of senior militant blamed for December bombing in Marawi

BenarNews staff
Philippines confirms death of senior militant blamed for December bombing in Marawi A soldier stands guard at the entrance of a Mindanao State University gymnasium while police investigators look for evidence after a bomb attack during a Catholic Mass, in Marawi, southern Philippines, Dec. 3, 2023.
Merlyn Manos/AFP

The Philippine military on Monday confirmed the killing of a suspected senior Islamic State-affiliated militant whom it accused as the mastermind of a deadly bombing during a Catholic Mass in the southern city of Marawi in December. 

Military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the Daulah Islamiyah (DI) emir had been identified as among nine militants killed in military operations on Jan. 25 and 26 in a remote part of Lanao del Sur, a province in the southern Philippines.  

The military’s 103rd Infantry Army “confirmed the death of Khadafi Mimbesa, also known as Engineer, in the military operation in January,” Brawner’s office said in a statement. 

Several sources, including one militant identified only as Khatab who had surrendered to the military on Sunday, confirmed to investigators the identities of those who died, a senior military official who asked to be kept anonymous told BenarNews. 

Khatab is a known “high-value individual in the DI-Maute group” and he corroborated intelligence reports earlier gathered by troops, the military said. 

However, one military source told BenarNews that troops in the field had yet to recover the body of Mimbesa even as he insisted that their intelligence information was beyond reproach.  

The Dec. 3 bombing killed four people occurred during a Mass at the Mindanao State University gymnasium in Marawi, a city that came under siege from Islamic State-linked militants in 2017. 

That siege lasted for five months and led to the destruction of much of Marawi and the deaths of at least 1,200 militants, soldiers, police and civilians before the military, backed by American and Australian intelligence support, defeated the militants.

It was spearheaded by Filipino Islamic State leader Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf group as well as Maute family members in Marawi, who controlled their own fighters. Hapilon and the Maute leaders were among those killed, although other militants have taken over their leadership roles. 

“Daulah Islamiyah” means “Islamic State” in the local language. Its membership includes fighters from several Filipino militant factions, including the Maute group, which had provided fighters and logistics during the siege of Marawi. 

Brawner lauded the troops in successfully pursuing those responsible for the university bombing and called on other militants to surrender. 

“Our troops will be relentless in the pursuit of those who will seek to disturb the peace. Take this as an invitation and a call to surrender now and avoid the same fate as your dead comrades,” he said. 

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines will always be a catalyst for peace and assure the public of the military’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding peace and security in Mindanao and across the country,” he said. 

The bombing occurred after security forces killed 11 Muslim militants identified as members of a local Daulah Islamiyah cell in the southern province of Maguindanao, including two Islamic militants it identified as Mundi Sawadjaan and Jalandoni Lucsadato, in coordinated actions. 

Authorities identified Mundi as a sub-leader of IS-linked Abu Sayyaf and the nephew of the late Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who was thought to be the group’s leader before his death in 2020. 

Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan was identified as the mastermind of a January 2019 bombing at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo, killing 23 people including an Indonesian couple blamed for the suicide attack, according to Philippine authorities. 

Roel Pareño in Zamboanga, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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