Military scores big vs IS-linked terrorists
ISABELA CITY, —The military scored a significant victory against local affiliates of the global terror network Islamic State (IS) in the last three days, with the killing of the Abu Sayyaf group’s chief bomb maker as its biggest gain.
Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade based in Basilan province, said soldiers clashed with the group of Mudzimar Sawadjaan, also known as “Mundi,” around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday as they were about to escape from a coastal community between Barangay Banah of Tipo-Tipo town and Barangay Lahi-Lahi of Tuburan town.
“He was killed in an armed encounter with government troops while he was trying to leave the island province. Initially, the slain terrorist was intercepted by the government operating on maritime patrol in the coastal areas of Basilan,” Luzon said.
Mundi, believed to be in his mid-30s, was the nephew of the late Hatib Hassan Sawadjaan who once led an Abu Sayyaf faction fiercely loyal to the IS. Due to massive military pressure in Sulu, Mundi had relocated to Basilan in March this year.
Luzon described Mundi as “a notorious terrorist, a bomb expert, the mastermind and architect of suicide bombings who perpetrated several atrocities in Sulu province.”
Among the atrocities that contained his signature were the suicide bombing by the Indonesian couple Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh inside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel cathedral in Jolo, provincial capital of Sulu, in January 2019 that killed 23 people; and another suicide bombing in downtown Jolo in August 2020 that killed 14 people.
He was believed to have maintained a stable of suicide bombers, mostly widows and children of former Abu Sayyaf fighters.
“The neutralization of (Mundi) Sawadjaan will not only keep the people safe but has finally given justice to the hundreds of victims of his atrocities,” said Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, chief of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“One big threat has been neutralized in Basilan, and anytime soon, Basilan can already be declared as Abu Sayyaf free,” said Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Army’s 11th Infantry Division, in a separate statement.
Some seven hours after Mundi was slain, government troops raided a lair of the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI)-affiliated Maute Group in Barangay Tambo of Piagapo town, Lanao del Sur province.
The ensuing clash resulted in the death of Alandoni Macadaya Lucsadatu, also known as Abu Shams and the capture of a certain Saadia Dato Angni, according to a spot report of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division on Sunday.
Lucsadatu, identified as a sub-leader of the local terrorist Maute group operating in the boundaries of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, had been monitored to have been recruiting among his relatives in Munai, Lanao del Norte. He was also allegedly responsible for killing a group member who had surrendered to the Army.
Recovered from Lucsadatu’s lair were an M16 assault rifle, a caliber .45 pistol, an 81mm mortar ammunition, two improvised bombs, 15 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition and communication equipment.
The Maute group was responsible for the May 2017 siege of Marawi City led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute. Omar was killed in October 2017 in the waning days of their occupation of the city, along with Abu Sayyaf top commander Isnilon Hapilon, who joined the Maute group in fighting against government troops. Maute remnants have since established lairs across the Lanao provinces.
On Friday, 11 members of the DI in Maguindanao del Sur were killed in a clash with government troops in Barangay Tuayan Mother in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan town at past 1 p.m.
Maj. Saber Balogan, civil-military operations chief of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said soldiers of the 40th Infantry Battalion conducting patrol operations clashed with an undetermined number of DI gunmen, resulting in the deaths of the 11 terrorists who are believed to be part of the group’s Salauhiddin Hassan faction.
“The firefight lasted for more than three hours” with the ground troops being backed by artillery fires, Balogan said.
He added that troops, during clearing operations, recovered five M16 rifles, two M-14 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and five improvised explosive devices.