Deaths of 3 terror suspects in PH ‘a terrific blow’ to terrorism—AFP
MANILA, Philippines—Three of the biggest suspected terrorists in the Philippines were slain in pre-dawn air strikes in Sulu on Thursday, including a top leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah network who carried a $5 million bounty on his head, and the elusive commander of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
In what the military termed as a “terrific blow” to terrorism, Air Force, Navy and Army troops killed 15 terrorists, including ASG commander Umbra Jumdail, also known as “Doc Abu,” and JI leaders Zulkifli bin Hir or “Marwan,” a Malaysian, and Singaporean Abdullah Ali, also known as “Muawiyah.”
“This is a terrific blow, a big blow, (to) the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said.
In a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Burgos said the operation took place at about 3 a.m. in Parang town “based on a thorough well-executed plan and months of continuous monitoring and surveillance of JI and ASG personalities.”
“The air strikes by two OV-10 Broncos took only seconds,” he said, adding that the targets had had no chance to retaliate. At the time, intelligence reports had put the number of terrorists on the ground at 30, he said.
The terrorists were found in a thickly vegetated area under the cover of coconut trees. “As per the description of the operation officer, the one conducting the operation, there were coconut trees and the area was thick, and there were tents. They were probably sleeping [when the air strikes started],” he said.
“The troops on ground have confirmed the deaths of 15 ASG and JI members,” Burgos said.
Burgos said Doc Abu had a bounty of P7.4 million put up by the Philippine government on top of a $140,000-reward offered by the US State Department for his arrest in relation to his involvement in the May 2001 kidnapping in the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.
On the other hand, the Philippine and US governments have offered rewards of P7.4 million and $5 million, respectively for the capture of Marwan, the 29th most wanted person by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, for multiple counts of kidnapping.
The arrest of bomb trainer Mawiyah, a known JI contact, carried a $50,000 bounty, Burgos said.
“Based on the report, the information we got is from the civilian informers who cooperated with us in our all-out-justice campaign,” he told reporters.
Burgos said he could not describe the condition of the 15 bodies that were retrieved on the ground.
Asked if there was need for DNA tests, he said the Philippine National Police had “confirmed” the identities of the three suspects. The names of the 12 others were not yet available, he said.
Burgos said the local police had custody of the corpses and he could not say where these were taken.
Asked if the United States had a hand in the operation, he said: “The US has been providing us assistance in terms of intelligence and in terms of technology. What was important was the intelligence provided to us in this case.”
He said intelligence reports indicated that six JI personalities entered the Philippines in December 2011, but they were still checking how many remained.
Burgos said no civilians were killed in the operation. “I would like to make it clear as of now there is no reported casualty or collateral damage,” he said.
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