Philippine military: 2 suspected Muslim militants killed in Mindanao shootout

BenarNews staff
2022.05.19
Zamboanga, Philippines
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Philippine military: 2 suspected Muslim militants killed in Mindanao shootout Armed militants with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group aligned with the so-called Islamic State extremist group, are shown in this file photograph taken in 2014 during a trip to BIFF’s remote hinterland encampment in Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, southern Philippines.
Jeoffrey Maitem

Government forces killed two fugitive militants, who were suspected of supplying firearms to Muslim extremist groups in the southern Philippines, during a shootout in Mindanao and arrested two other suspects afterwards, military officials said Thursday.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, based in southern Maguindanao province, identified the slain suspects as Datu Romah Malang Mastura (alias Mamako) and Ebrahim Samama.

They died in a brief firefight that broke out as government soldiers and drug enforcement agents conducted a counter-narcotics operation in the town of Pigcawayan on Wednesday, said Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, the regional military chief.

“The exchange of fire lasted for about five minutes which resulted in the death of Mastura and Samama and the enemy withdrew towards the south direction,” Uy told BenarNews.

The military identified the two suspects who were taken into custody after the shootout as Guiahed Akmad Toting and Ali Kamsa Guilay.

Mastura and Samama were among several inmates who had escaped from a heavily secured prison facility in nearby Kidapawan City in 2017. Intelligence operatives had tracked their movements since then, and their group allegedly had widened its criminal operation to include drug trafficking and selling firearms to local groups allied with Islamic State extremists.

The military said the two slain were among its list of “high-value targets” in the war against drugs. Authorities recovered from the scene an assortment of rifles and guns as well as six heat-sealed plastic sachets, containing meth drug paraphernalia.

The group to which the suspects belonged also was “providing finances and arms and other logistics support” to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Daulah Islamiyah militant groups in the province, military officials said.

BIFF is a splinter group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist group that has signed a peace pact with Manila, while the DI is the local arm of so-called Islamic State group.

The incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should expect a persistent presence of armed groups trying to advance their cause for a separate Islamic state in the Mindanao region, according to Rommel Banlaoi, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“There are still few Muslim personalities opposing the government. They want full separation,” Banlaoi told BenarNews.

“Those active militants are remnants but there are new emerging leaders still aligned with the Islamic State,” he added.

However, Banlaoi noted that the numbers of BIFF and Daulah Islamiyah members are dwindling due to efforts to counter the financing of terrorism to mount attacks.

Other Daulah Islamiyah cells have worked with a faction that was behind a five-month siege of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, by pro-IS Filipino fighters and militants from other countries in 2017.

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