MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Philippine military killed one of the most notorious sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group responsible for high-profile bombing incidents and kidnapping of foreigners.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez of the Western Mindanao Command confirmed to Rappler on Satuday, April 29, the death of Alhabsy Misaya, the leader of a sub-group based in Indanan, Sulu.
Galvez did not provide details as there were ongoing operations to save the hostages under Misaya's watch.
A separate source told Rappler Misaya died in an encounter with troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu Friday evening, April 28, in barangay Silangkan in Sulu's Parang town.
Misaya's remains had been over to his relatives, according to the source.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called the death of Misaya a ""big blow to the notorious kidnap-for-ransom terrorist group." He also reminded communities that fighting terrorism is a "shared responsibility."
Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said Misaya is one of the most notorious Abu Sayyaf leaders. He had a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom.
Año described Misaya as a bomb expert who was behind several high-profile incidents such as the October 2002 Malagutay bombing that killed US serviceman Sergeant Mark Jackson and wounded others.
He was also behind the 2009 bombing of Salaam Bridge in Indanan, Sulu; and the 2011 bombing of Dennis Coffee Shop in Jolo, where 4 civilians were killed.
Misaya and his men had been the target of government offensives as the military works to meet a self-imposed deadline to crush the Abu Sayyaf by June 30.
Misaya's group recently concentrated on kidnapping foreigners, particularly Malaysian and Indonesians sailing the waters between the Philippines and neighboring countries.
Misaya was responsible for the kidnapping of 10 Indonesian crewmen of Tugboat Brahman 12 in March 2016, and 5 Malaysian crewmen of Tugboat Serundung 3 in July 2016.
All Indonesian crewmen were released last year after reported ransom payments. The Malaysians were released this year after a series of clashes between the Aby Sayyaf and the military.
Major clash in January
In January 2017, the military scored a major victory against Misaya's group when 12 of his men were killed in clashes in the town of Panamao.
Soldiers and officers involved in the operation earned medals. (READ: 5 operations vs Abu Sayyaf that won medals for soldiers)
Misaya's death comes shortly after the killing of Muamar Askali – the Abu Sayyaf spokesperson who sailed from Sulu to Bohol to get more hostages from the famous tourist destination. (READ: ASG leader behind foreigner's kidnap killed in Bohol)