PHILIPPINE Marines have killed eight bandits, including the alleged leader of Ansarul Khilafah (Supporters of the Caliphate) in the Philippines (AKP), during an encounter with government troops in Sultan Kudarat late Thursday afternoon.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, said the military and the police were about to serve an arrest warrant against members of the group led by one Ansar Al Khalifa Muhammad Jaafar Maguid, alias “Tokboy.”
Maguid has four standing warrants of arrest for atrocities and violence in the South Cotabato area since August 2008. He was arrested in 2009 but escaped from Bulantay Jail, Alabel, Sarangani Province after seven months. He had been a fugitive for half a decade and was involved in more lawlessness in the different areas of the region since then.
Authorities have yet to confirm if Maguid was one of those killed in the encounter.
Four of the slain bandits were identified as Ibrahim Ali alias Hudzaifa/Abu Fattah, an Indonesian, Abdul Halil, Tatuh Sumail and Kira Sabiwang all of Palimbang town.
The AKP is among the radical jihadists in Mindanao with allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an English term for Al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham (Daesh).
Tan added that the AKP is trying to project itself as a sub-group of the IS but has yet to gain recognition by showing its real strength and capability.
Recovered from the clash site in Sitio Sinapingan, Barangay Butril in Palimbang town were a .50 caliber locally made barret sniper; M16 rifle; .45 caliber pistol; assorted materials for improvised explosive device; ICOM radios and documents with intelligence values.
Also found were five black flags similar to that of the ISIS, now known as the Islamic State (IS), which had established an Islamic caliphate government in the troubled Arab countries.
But security officials and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman, denied the existence of ISIS in the region, although they admitted that its ideology had already penetrated the country.
Tan said, however, the encounter with the group does not necessarily mean the country has, indeed, been infiltrated by ISIS militants, noting the fact the international terrorist group does not recognize local bandits in the country.
The Manila Times in May reported that combined members of Jema’ah Islamiyah and Ansarul Khilafah based in Sarangani appeared in a public video pledging allegiance to the ISIS and vowed to hoist the black flag and make the country a graveyard for Americans and their country’s allies.
Reliable intelligence community sources said the bandits, considered “old-timers,” have taken refuge among local gangsters based in Sarangani, led by Maguid, after the fall of Abdul Basit Usman, Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Mohammad Ali Tambako this year.
They said the black flag movement in the country is seeking to establish a caliphate through jihad or holy war, the same as what ISIS had established in Iraq and Syria years ago.
Local Muslim clerics and leaders, however, do not conform with the radicals’ belief, saying that mass killings, beheadings and bombings are clearly prohibited in the original context of Islam.
Following the group of Khilafah Islamiyah, the Rajah Solaiman Movement, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and individual rogue members of other Muslim rebels in Mindanao have also vowed support to the ISIS.
Meanwhile, the BIFF separatists, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had been in close contact with the KIM since 2012 before they expressed support to the ISIS last year.
No ISIS in Mindanao
Military officials and ARMM leaders continue to deny the existence of ISIS in the regions but said its ideology is prevalent in the country.
ARMM’s Hataman and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, however, urged security forces to apply the full force of the law with utmost consideration for the safety of civilians in the process against extremist militants particularly the ASG.
Brigadier Gen. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu (Jtgs), told The Manila Times on Friday they are still waiting for the arrival of additional forces in Sulu to augment their forces against the bandits upon the orders of President Aquino.
He said the augmentation order came amid a JTGS plan for wider operations in Sulu against the ASG, which should start after the observance of Mindanao’s week of peace.
Public safety assured
Malacanang on Friday assured the public of their safety following the killing of the armed group identified with the IS in a clash with the military in Sultan Kudarat.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the AFP and PNP are “conducting continuing law enforcement operations against threat groups.”
“Our security forces are committed and focused on ensuring the safety and well being of our citizens whose vigilance and cooperation are essential in maintaining peace and order,” he added.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE VALENTE AND Fernan Marasigan