COTABATO CITY, Philippines, May 8 – After the elimination of two bomb experts in Mindanao, Philippine authorities are now pursuing a Singaporean extremist – a senior Jema'ah Islamiyah member reportedly coddled by Moro rebels.
Army Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Division, said government troops are in pursuit of Singaporean extremist Mohammad Ali alias Muawiyah, a senior JI member protected by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“He is also a senior member in their organization (JI) and we are aiming to neutralize the foreigner,” Petinglay said in a phone interview on Friday, May 8.
Muawiyah was among those declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as casualties in an airstrike in 2012, which also supposedly killed top terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. The AFP recanted the claim in 2014. (Read: After 2 years, PH military says 'killed' terrorist leader likely alive)
Petinglay said Muawiyah is still in Maguindanao and was working with local Abdul Basit Usman until he was killed in a military operation in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao, on May 3.
Muawiyah has a $500,000-bounty on his head.
Prepared for retaliation
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla told a local radio station that Usman has left behind about "10 to 100 recruits" reportedly ready to carry out missions.
“The death of Usman should be not our concern but his 10 to 100 recruits right now. This is what the government should address,” Fontanilla said.
Petinglay said the AFP is aware of this, and that troops have been alerted and directed to exert proactive measures to counter any such plans.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF killed Usman, following a long-standing order from the MILF leadership to track down terrorists. The AFP has validated this.
In the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash on January 25, the MILF was accused of coddling terrorists, including Marwan, who was killed in the police operation.
Meanwhile, a town mayor claimed that MILF ground troops buried the remains of Usman in Guindulugan town.
Guindulungan Mayor Midpantao Midtimbang based the claim on feedback from town residents, who reported to him that members of the MILF's 118th Base Command reportedly buried Usman in the village of Muti after they killed the bomb expert.
He said Usman's graveyard was 5 kilometers from his office but cannot give the exact location. – Jeoffrey Maitem Rappler.com