8 gunmen carrying ISIS flags killed in clash in Sultan Kudarat town
COTABATO CITY — Eight armed men carrying the flag of the extremist Islamic State, and including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed in an encounter with government troops, Thursday morning in Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat.
Five ISIS flags and documents, as well as radios, firearms and explosive materials were recovered from the suspects’ possession in Barangay Butril, Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat.
The Western Mindanao Command said the group was led by a certain Ansar Al Khalifa and Mohd Jaafar Maguid, who have clamed to be supporters of the ISIS group.
Maulana Kugi, a village official of Barangay Butril in Palimbang where the fire fight ensued, said he saw eight dead bodies and several firearms hauled by Philippine Marines after the encounter at about 5:30 a.m. in Sitio Sinapingan.
He said Maguid has also been known in the village as “Commander Tokboy,” and has been said to have about 40 armed followers.
A Marine officer of the 1st Marine Brigade based in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat, who requested anonymity, said the group has been under surveillance for the past month due to alleged extortion activities as complained by farmers.
The armed men called themselves the Ansar Khilafah Philippines, a group of self-declared terrorists supposedly allied with the ISIS.
“This group has not been officially recognized as ISIS even though they have an ISIS flag, they are not that strong yet,” said the Westmincom spokesperson, Maj. Filemon Tan.
Government troops were patrolling the area when the armed men attacked them, leading to a firefight, which lasted 30 to 45 minutes.
After the smoke cleared, eight bodies were recovered, including an Indonesian national identified as a certain Abdul Fatah.
Also recovered were a cal. 50 home made rifle, an M16 rifle, a caliber .45 pistol, explosive materials, radios, as well as the ISIS flags and documents.
Tan said the encounter with the group did not necessarily mean that ISIS has infiltrated the Philippines.
“What is sure is that there is a group not recognized by ISIS but there are ISIS flags. If they have links with the Abu Sayyaf or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, we have yet to establish that,” the military official said.
Kugi, the Barangay Butril official, said he was not certain if Maguid was among the fatalities.
The Marines were sent to the village to check on reports that Maguid’s group was mulcting “protection money” from farmers, mostly Maguindanaon farmers.
Kugi said Maguid was known in the village as leader of a gang of extortionists mulcting even ordinary folks. He has string of cases that include cattle rustling and illegal drug pushing.
The Marine officer, saying he was not authorized to speak, refused to confirm or deny if the group was indeed affiliated with the ISIS after flags were recovered.
Supt. Danny Reyes, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the report from Palimbang police was still sketchy and that it was a military operation with the police providing back up forces.
Military and police authorities admitted the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and extremist Abu Sayyaf Group, mainly based in Sulu across the Moro Gulf, also operate in Palimbang.
Kugi said dozens of civilians have fled to safer ground.
A coastal town of Sultan Kudarat, Palimbang is about 100 kilometers south of Cotabato City. SFM
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