INTENSE air strikes by the military using new FA-50 fighter jets hit several positions of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups in Butig, Lanao del Sur, killing at least 15 militants, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said on Sunday.
Military officials are verifying a report that among those killed was an Indonesian terrorist identified as Mohisen.
Año said there are two other foreign terrorists who are with the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf rebels.
“We are still digging and doing more investigation as to his background,” he said of Mohisen, who was reportedly with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
The AFP chief said these foreigners are not necessarily bomb experts since they may also have different roles such as religious advisers.
“They could also be tasked to unite the different local terrorist groups in Mindanao. We’ll see. I already ordered my men to get all the background and details about Mohisen. He was with the entourage of Hapilon when they arrived in Lanao,” Año said.
Ground operations are also ongoing and officials expect more clashes the military pursues its campaign to decimate terrorist groups in the southern Philippines.
“There were intelligence reports that more or less 15 were killed in the Maute and Hapilon group. Ground operations are ongoing and we expect there will be more encounters forthcoming,” Año said.
Hapilon’s group joined forces with the group recently in an apparent attempt to establish a cell of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS in the region.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on Thursday that Hapilon brought some of his men to Central Mindanao to find out if the region is conducive to the establishment of an ISIS group.
Hapilon was reportedly among the wounded militants in the ongoing military operations.
“He needs blood transfusion. If he does not get proper medical treatment he might die. He’s already bedridden. He can no longer walk,” Año said, adding that the Abu Sayyaf leader is being carried by four of his men.