Foreigners, Abu leaders among dead in Lanao del Sur clashes
PIAGAPO, Lanao del Sur—Two leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group and at least four foreigners were among the suspected terrorists killed in clashes that spanned three days as government forces pursued a local terror group in Lanao del Sur province.
In Manila, Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, said three Indonesians and a Malaysian, believed to be members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group operating in Asia, were among 37 militants who were killed in the assault.
Año, in an Associated Press (AP) report, said 14 of the dead had been identified. The report, however, did not name any of the slain foreigners or armed men.
Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, chief of the 1st Infantry Tabak Division, said among those killed was Abu Imam Bantayaw, an Abu Sayyaf leader based in this town; and a subcommander identified only as Mael, who was killed and buried here on Sunday night.
Bautista said one of those slain, who soldiers believed was a foreigner, was buried in a crater that a bomb created as government forces engaged members of the Maute terror group.
Government troops recovered a passport of an Indonesian national from the clash site in Barangay Gacap, he said. Bautista, however, did not release details about information contained in the foreign passport.
Bomb-making materials, bullets, uniforms, motorcycles and food items were also recovered from the area.
The military continued its combat operations against the Maute group following the order of President Duterte to neutralize terror groups in Mindanao, specifically the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, who both pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State, a jihadist movement based in the Middle East.
Brig. Gen. Nixon Fortes, commander of the 103rd Brigade, said there would be no letup in the operations against the Maute group, which had established a new camp in Piagapo.
The area is just 5 kilometers from Camp Pukta of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front faction led by Abdullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo, according to Fortes.
Año, in an interview on Tuesday, said the four were among the 130 foreigners living in Mindanao who were believed to be supporting local terrorists led by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
He said mopping-up operations were ongoing as troops tried to locate Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. —WITH REPORTS FROM JIGGER J. JERUSALEM AND AP
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