The Philippine Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion based in Davao del Sur has launched pursuit operations to track down the lair of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, the alleged leader of Ansar al-Khilafah (Supporters of the Caliphate) in the Philippines (AKP), which is believed to be in the hinterlands of Sarangani Province.
Colonel Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB), is leading the operation against Maguid and his trusted man, identified as Limbo Jusin Pala. The two are top on the list of high-profile members of the terror cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) under its fallen leader Abdul Basit Usman.
Maguid, alias “Tokboy,” who escaped from a four-hour gun battle with government forces in the town of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat on November 23, 2015, was reportedly on a mission to create large-scale violence in Central Mindanao.
Maguid and Pala are considered high-profile personalities by the military in the Mindanao Region, being key players of the JI terror cell left by Usman.
The AKP has claimed affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, whose presence in Mindanao was confirmed to The Manila Times by a ranking officer of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces Military Intelligence Group (ISAFP-MIG) in the region.
Maguid was tasked to continue the role of Usman and Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” in carrying out atrocities as part of their jihad mission.
Part of ISIS’s strategic plan is to secure external support and recruit other terror groups in Southern Philippines like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM), Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) and other allied forces, according to the same source.
Another source, identified only as Abdullaziz, who is from Kabuntalan in the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao, told The Manila Times that Maguid directly trained under two Indonesian nationals who arrived in the Mindanao Region three years ago.
The Indonesian nationals are reportedly training ISIS recruits organized by Maguid in undisclosed areas near the MILF camp. Their recruits are believed to be disgruntled MILF commanders who are now strongly supporting ISIS in the region.
Alarmed by the recent encounter between the ISIS recruits of Maguid and government soldiers, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Police Regional Office 12 and the Army’s 1002nd Brigade have stepped up security operations in Sarangani Province and neighboring areas following reports of a bombing scenario mission.
“Our priority for this operation which is now ongoing is the immediate arrest of Maguid and his other recruits and we believe that he’s just in the hinterlands of Sarangani Province now after his escape from the Palimbang encounter,” the ISAFP-MIG officer said.
Former BIFF cell leaders
Maguid and Pala were also tagged as former cell leaders of the 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Brigade of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters’ (BIFF) inner defense group headed by its regional field commander Ustadz Haun Salindatu, military reports revealed.
Maguid, charged for the attacks on the town center of Maasim, Sarangani in August 2008 that killed three people, was arrested in July 2009 but managed to escape from the Sarangani provincial jail in March 2010.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 regional police director, said a subsequent raid was conducted on Maguid and Pala’s safe house, which also served as the group’s bomb-making laboratory in Barangay Daliao, Maasim Town, but the two eluded arrest.
Recovered during the operation were various high-powered firearms including an M14 rifle, M16 Armalite rifle, a .30-caliber Garand rifle, an Ultimax 5.56mm rifle, an M203 grenade launcher, a homemade M-79 grenade launcher, assorted ammunition and bomb-making materials, and unused handheld radios.
Maguid is also facing a string of other cases including a grenade attack in Maasim Town in June 2009; the murder of Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao’s cousin Rogelio Pacquiao in Sitio Tampuan, Barangay Kamanga in July 2009; the killing of Maasim Vice Mayor Sawab Pangolima last October; and several other shooting incidents.
Maguid’s father, Jules King, who is a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander, expressed alarmed over what he said was the military’s “exaggerated propaganda” against his son. He said Tokboy is not a replacement of Usman as AKP leader and that charges against his son are all lies and have no basis.