A Filipino militant bomb-making expert who had been believed dead recently eluded a military raid on a Muslim guerrilla camp in the Philippines, disproving earlier reports of his demise, according to the military.
Abdul Basit Usman is on the US government’s list of most-wanted terrorists. The State Department offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest in 2009.
The Philippine media reported in 2010 that Usman was among several people believed killed early that year in a US drone attack that targeted a Pakistani Taliban leader in a remote area of northern Pakistan.
Philippine military officials, however, now say the reports of his death were erroneous.
Usman, who the Philippine and US governments say has links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf group of Southeast Asian militants, was seen in the camp of another armed Muslim group on the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines military spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is a small offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim guerrilla force that waged a decades-long armed rebellion in the southern region of Mindanao.
“We launched a raid two weeks ago. There was a firefight and we recovered an arms cache, but he was able to get away,” Hermoso said on Saturday. “He’s the one training the BIFF members who are conducting bombings in Central Mindanao.”
“Based on what we know, he is still active,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told Agence France-Presse.
“As far as we’re concerned he’s with the BIFF,” he said.
Zagala added that the Philippine government was offering a P6.3-million reward for information leading to Usman’s capture.
There is a standing warrant for his arrest on charges of multiple murder, he said.
“We are securing our communities and vital installations from his activities,” Hermoso said.
The MILF signed a peace treaty with the Philippine government early this year that had both sides committing to create a Muslim self-rule area in the region.
The BIFF has rejected the deal and vowed to fight on.