MANILA, Philippines – Philippine security officials welcomed the killing of Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a special operation by the US military, which US President Donald Trump confirmed on Sunday, October 27. However, they acknowledged it did not mean the end of the global terror group.
Al-Baghdadi’s death “undoubtedly dealt a severe blow on terrorist organizations around the globe. We expect that his death will impact negatively on the leadership of terrorists in various parts of the world,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement on Monday, October 28.
“I think this is a blow to the organization considering al-Baghdadi’s stature as a leader. But this is just a momentary setback, considering the depth and reach of the organization worldwide,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a separate statement on Monday.
“Somebody will take his place to lead ISIS. Maybe not as famous and well known,” Lorenzana added.
Al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by US Special Forces in northwestern Syria. Trump said military dogs chased the terror leader, along with 3 children, into an underground tunnel. Caught in a dead end, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, blowing himself up along with his children.
Arevalo said the AFP “commends” the agencies that brought about the “collective success” in killing al-Baghdadi. In his announcement, Trump credited cooperation from Russia, Turkey, Iraq, “Syria to an extent,” and the Syrian Kurds.
The ISIS leader’s death is seen as a major setback for the group that drew tens of thousands of followers in many countries including the Philippines. Among Philippines-based groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS are the Abu Sayyaf factions under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Sulu and Furuji Indama in Basilan, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters faction under Esmael Abdulmalik a.k.a. Abu Torayfie, and the Maute group which laid siege to Marawi City from May to October in 2017.
Sawadjaan is the leader of ISIS in the Philippines. Security officials said his group was likely behind a series of suicide bombings in Sulu province earlier this year mostly involving foreign attackers. The twin bombing at a military camp in Indanan, Sulu, on June 28 included a Filipino attacker, the first known case of a Filipino suicide bomber.
The AFP said it would continue “vigorous efforts to prevent or counter terrorist extremists who continue to threaten” the Philippines, adding that troops on the ground remain on high alert “to thwart possible attempts to ride on this development,” Arevalo said.
Although the military “seriously doubts” there will be sympathy attacks from local ISIS-inspired groups, Arevalo said they are “ready to combat any eventuality.
The military will continue to fight ISIS-inspired groups and to prevent them from recruiting new fighters, and “exploiting the situation in the countryside,” he added.
“We will build from our triumph in Marawi in frustrating ISIS’ move to establish a caliphate in our country,” the military spokesman said. He then called on the public to “stay alert and be actively involved in reporting to authorities any suspicious persons or activities in their localities.” – Rappler.com