MANILA: Philippine security forces killed on Thursday the leader of a Muslim militant group that has carried out deadly attacks on civilians to win support from Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria, authorities said.
Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, founder and leader of Ansarul Khilafa Philippines, was tracked down and shot at a beach resort on the southern island of Mindanao shortly after midnight, while three “cohorts” were arrested, a police report said.
Ansarul Khilafa is one of several violent Islamic militant groups on Mindanao, homeland of a large Filipino Muslim minority where a decades-old separatist rebellion has claimed more than 120,000 lives.
“He’s wanted for bombing incidents. They use improvised explosive devices, killing people at town festivals,” Chief Superintendent Cedric Train, the regional police chief, told Agence France-Presse.
“They fly the ISIS flag in their camps. They want to be recognized by the ISIS,” Train added, referring to the Islamic State group by one of its acronyms.
The military killed eight Ansarul Khilafa members in a clash in November 2015 at Maguid’s Mindanao hometown of Palimbang, 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Manila.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno warned of potential violent repercussions from the death of Maguid, more widely known by his nickname of Commander Tokboy.
“They might retaliate so we have to double our preparations,” Sueno said, citing large Catholic religious festivals in the Philippines this month.
Ansarul Khilafa was behind an attack that left two civilians dead on Mindanao in 2008 as well as a series of robberies and other crimes, according to Sidney Jones, director of the Indonesia-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.
Maguid was arrested in 2009 but escaped eight months later, Jones said in a research paper published in October last year.
Train said the authorities had also been looking into Ansarul Khilafa’s role in a bombing in Davao, Mindanao’s largest city in September last year that killed 15 people and injured dozens of others.
Maguid, who Train said was aged 32, appeared in a video circulated on social media networks last year with the leaders of other local militant groups pledging allegiance to IS. AFP