A “foreign-looking” man believed to be one of the five members of the Southeast Asian cell of the al-Qaeda international terror network was among those killed in an ongoing military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, a military official said on Monday.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the military’s Public Affairs Office, added that the military is coordinating with the police to verify the identity of the “foreign-looking individual.”
“Among those who were killed in an encounter with the Marine Battalion Landing Team 6 in Barangay Pusao is a foreign-looking individual whom we believe is one of the five foreign terrorists being coddled by Mohammad Ali Tambako… by his features alone, we could make out that he’s not a Filipino,” Cabunoc said in Filipino.
Tambako is believed to be the head of the 70 armed men who broke away from the BIFF and formed the so-called Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), which the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said is coddling five foreign terrorists.
The body of the slain terror suspect has been turned over to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for identification.
The military is also verifying reports that Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman was also among those wounded or killed in the latest encounter.
“We couldn’t determine if he was among those wounded or killed in the encounter as there was no body recovered that matches the features of Basit Usman,” Cabunoc said.
According to him, since the AFP launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF this month, at least 73 bandits have been killed and 33 others were wounded.
On the government side, four soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded. Cabunoc disclosed that among those killed was a cousin of the BIFF head, Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, who he said was wearing a uniform of the PNP-Special Action Force when his body was found during mopping up operations.