2 Suspected IS Militants Killed, 2 Caught in Southern Philippines Clash

BenarNews staff
2022.02.03
Zamboanga, Philippines
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2 Suspected IS Militants Killed, 2 Caught in Southern Philippines Clash Burnt kitchen items are seen in front of a wall spray-painted with the word “ISIS,” which stands for the Islamic State group, in Marawi City, Lanao province, in the Philippines, May 11, 2019.
[Reuters]

Security forces have killed two Islamic State-linked militant suspects and captured two others during a clash in the southern Philippines, the military said Thursday.

The shootout broke out when government troops ran into a unit of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group (DI-MG) while on patrol Wednesday in Lumbac, a village in the town of Balabagan in Lanao del Sur province, the military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said.

“Based on the reports from the ground, Marine troops were conducting focused military operations when they chanced upon the group of Polo Alim, a Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group member,” said Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., the commander of WestMinCom.

“A firefight ensued after which [the] enemy withdrew, leaving behind the dead body of one of their slain comrades,” he said, adding that Alim escaped but two others were caught.

The military identified the slain fighter as Saipoden Bangka Ayok and the two captured suspects as Datu Saida Abikan and Alimusa Ayon Bagol.

Alim is believed to be a commander of the DI-Maute Group, which in 2017 made up the majority of the Filipino militants who took over the southern city of Marawi during a five-month siege. 

Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Central and 6th Division, confirmed that another DI-MG member was killed during the clash. 

“The fleeing enemies brought along with them the remains of the other slain comrade,” Uy said in a statement.

Four marines were wounded and brought to a hospital for treatment, he said. They are believed to be in a stable condition, he added.

Police operatives and marines who conducted a clearing operation said they recovered assorted weapons left behind by the militants, including high-powered rifles and a grenade launcher. They also seized “war materials” from a shallow bunker where the gunmen were believed to have holed up, the military said.

Meanwhile, military intelligence officials earlier told BenarNews that a few IS militants who had escaped from troops in Marawi in 2017 were in the process of rebuilding their ranks.

However, recent military victories in the field have disrupted their command structure, with the overall leader of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan’s group under assault farther south on Jolo Island, officials added.

Sawadjaan himself may have been killed in a clash in 2020, but the military could not confirm his death because no body was found. Philippine officials accuse him of orchestrating a suicide bombing of a Catholic church in Jolo in 2019 that left 23 dead, including an Indonesian couple who were the bombers.

The following year, his nephew, Mundi Sawadjaan, masterminded another bombing on Jolo that left 14 dead. 

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