MANILA, Philippines – The alleged mastermind in the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombing is now the head of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said on Thursday, February 7.
"Si Abu Dar naubos lahat 'yung mga lumaban doon sa Marawi. Ang naiwan na lang doon mga tao na rin ni Maute, kaya ang may pinakamalaking base 'yung Sawadjaan," Año said. (Abu Dar lost all his fighters in Marawi. What was left are the forces of the Mautes, so the one with the biggest base is Sawadjaan.)
Also identified as the leader of the bandit and terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, Sawadjaan is believed to keep his base in Patikul, Sulu. Año believes Sawadjaan is already recognized by the top leaders of ISIS.
Why this matters: According to Año, this raises the threat that Sawadjaan poses to the country as he could be the one to whom all members and sympathizers of ISIS in and out of the Philippines flock to, and he could be the main recipient of funding for terror plans.
"Pagka kasi may ganyang recognized, 'yung isang puwedeng mangyari magkaroon sila ng common point, para kung saan pupunta 'yung mga foreign terrorists na papunta ng Pilipinas. Pangalawa, funding. Puwedeng magpadala sila ng funding," Año said.
(If there is a recognized leader, one thing that could happen is they would have a common point where foreign terrorists could go into the Philippines. Second, funding. They can send funding to him.)
Año, a former military and intelligence chief, announced that the AFP and PNP have already prepared operations to hunt Sawadjaan down. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.