|Philippine army says it has killed militant behind suicide attacks|
|[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] Philippine soldiers have killed a who had helped a local group linked to ISIS to stage s in the southern province of Sulu, the military said on Saturday.|
The body of Talha Jumsah, also known as Abu Talha, was recovered after a clash with Filipino troops on Friday morning in the town of Patikul, military officials said.
They said Abu Talha had been trained in bomb-making by ISIS and had instructed the Group (ASG) in setting up s. He had also served as "finance conduit and liaison" between foreign and local s.
"The death of Abu Talha will surely cause demoralisation in the ASG ranks in Sulu," said Army Brigadier General Antonio Nafarrete.
Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr, the commander of military forces in Sulu, urged remaining ASG members to "surrender and live a normal life instead of being hunted down as fleeing criminals".
Early this month, the army said soldiers had foiled what they called an attempted in an urban area in Jolo municipality in Sulu, the latest in a series of attacks blamed on Abu Sayyaf.
There have been four s in Sulu, Abu Sayyaf's stronghold, in the past 16 months, despite intensified army operations and a vow by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to wipe the group out.
The twin bombing of a church in January killed 21 people, a van bomb at a checkpoint in July 2018 killed 11, a suicide attack by two youths killed eight in June, and in September a woman carrying a bomb near an army detachment detonated it prematurely.
The attackers included Indonesians, a Moroccan and Filipinos.
|Militants begin handing over guns under Philippines peace deal|
|[DAWN] in the mainly Catholic Philippines began handing over their guns to independent foreign monitors on Saturday, as part of a treaty aimed at ending a decades-long insurgency.|
Just over a thousand in the country’s restive south were turning in 940 weapons in a single day, the start of a graduated decommissioning process that aims to turn the country’s largest rebel force into a regular political party.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who were demobilised on Saturday represent a symbolic first step towards retiring what MILF says is a force of 40,000 in the coming years.
"The war is over... I have no firearms left," Paisal Abdullah Bagundang, 56, a self-described veteran of more than 100 s with government security forces since the 1970s, said.
But the disarmament will take time to make an impact in a place where violence is an almost-daily threat.
A bomb hidden in a parked near a market in Isulan town early on Saturday, just hours before President Rodrigo Duterte was to witness the decommissioning ceremony some 40 kilometres away in Sultan Kudarat.
Police said eight people in the attack that was later claimed by the group, according to SITE Intelligence, which monitors jihadist activities worldwide.
The decommissioning process "should not lead to expectations that it is going to result in a major deceleration in attacks", said Francisco Lara, senior conflict adviser for Asia at watchdog International Alert, noting that the public in the region is also armed.
Acquiring a gun is "like buying fish in the market" in the south-western provinces where most of the Philippines’ minority live, MILF commander Murad Ebrahim told s.
But "if people no longer feel they need firearms to survive then they will easily give them up", added Ebrahim, who is also chief minister of the area that has its own regional parliament, but no separate police force or military. About a third of MILF combatants and their weapons are to be initially retired over the coming eight months.
|Manila says first Filipino ‘suicide bomber’ behind last month’s attack|
|[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] Philippine security forces confirmed Wednesday that at least one Filipino "" was behind a deadly attack last month, in a first for the Asian country.|
Norman Lasuca and one other yet to be identified suspect blew themselves up outside a military camp on the remote southern island of Jolo on June 28 in an attack that also killed three soldiers and two civilians, the police and military said.
"We can now confirm... the incidence of the first in the Philippines, perpetrated by a Filipino in the person of Norman Lasuca," military Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told a news conference.
The Jolo bombing marks a worrying escalation of militancy driven by the influence of the ISIS group in Southeast Asia, security experts earlier told AFP.
A decades-old insurgency in the southern Philippines has killed tens of thousands.
But s have been used extremely rarely, with blamed for the few that have been carried out.
National police Bernard Banac described last month’s bombing as "a locally initiated attack organized by the group", a Jolo-based gang of engaged in kidnappings and bombings.
"The report as claimed by ISIS that they are the ones responsible for this is still up to validation and that remains to be seen," he told s, referring to ISIS by an alternative name.
Philippine authorities said the two suspected Jolo bombers’ remains were tested for DNA, and one matched that of Lasuca’s mother and brother, who are both Tausugs, the predominant ethnic group in Jolo.
Experts are still attempting to identify the second bomber, Banac said.
"Before, we only heard of IED (improvised ) attacks, remote-controlled attacks but this time an individual as a full-fledged suicide bomber," Arevalo said.
"We (security forces) will have adjustments in techniques, tactics and procedures given this development," he said.
"We consider this to be an isolated case," he added.
he acknowledged that "the security environment in our country has changed" and civilians should help the security forces combat the new threat.
They must ensure prospective recruits "won’t be radicalized by terrorist groups (who are) only waiting for the right time and individual to bring to the road of extremism," he said.
Arevalo said Lasuca’s mother described the son, in his early twenties, as a former "battered" child who endured beatings meted out by his father.
|Three Soldiers Killed in Philippines' Restive South, ISIS claims attack|
|[AnNahar] An attack on a special Philippine army counter-terrorism unit left three soldiers dead and nine others in the southern Philippines on Friday, military spokesmen and witnesses told AFP.|
Unknown suspects targeted the unit's temporary headquarters on the island of Jolo, a stronghold of -linked s.
"It was a bomb and a firefight," army Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP, adding the attackers' identities were not immediately known.
An AFP on the scene saw a blood-soaked man slumped on a tricycle on a street also stained with blood in front of the temporary headquarters of the army's 1,500-member First Brigade Combat team.
The Philippines has renewed its campaign against the in Jolo this year after at least one suspected attacked the island's Roman Catholic cathedral, killing 21 people.
Major Arvin Arcinas, the region's military , said three army members were killed in Friday's attack, with nine other soldiers were .
He said he could not confirm if there were civilian casualties and could not say what kind of explosives were used.
Jolo and other remote areas of the southern Philippines are home to numerous s including the Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnappings and bombings.
The s, who demand large ransoms and have beheaded several hostages, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The army deployed the specially trained unit in the Jolo town of Indanan four weeks ago.
In the same week, a Dutch birdwatcher held for years by the Abu Sayyaf was killed in Jolo during a firefight between his kidnappers and soldiers sent to rescue him.
ISIS claims responsibility for Philippine army camp bombing that left 5 dead
[Reuters via Task & Purpose] An explosion at a military base in the restive southern Philippines on Friday killed five people, including three soldiers, and wounded nine others in what Islamic State said was an attack by its suicide bombers.
The military said the blast occurred at around noon at a base on Jolo island, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a splintered militant network notorious for kidnapping and piracy and for its pledge of allegiance to Islamic State.
Islamic State said via its Amaq news agency that its fighters had infiltrated the base strapped with explosives and killed or wounded 100 soldiers. It posted an image of two young men standing beside a black Islamic State flag, wearing what appeared to be vests designed to hold explosives.
Neither the claim nor the authenticity of the photograph could be immediately verified.
The incident will be a major setback for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's goal of wiping out Abu Sayyaf, for which he has created a special infantry division on Jolo to be comprised of 4,500 troops by 2022.
There was no immediate comment from Duterte's office.
|ISIS bride helping CIA track down Baghdadi|
The woman, Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, better known by her doom-inducing nom de guerre, Umm Sayyaf, has reportedly helped in joint CIA-Kurdish efforts to track down Mr Baghdadi by providing detailed accounts of his movements over the years, including the locations of safe houses as well as the obscure traveling routes that he takes.
Miss Sayyaf, 29-years-old, and believed to be Iraqi, was captured in a 2015 US Delta Force raid in Syria, in which her husband, ’s then-second in command and the group’s so-called oil minister, , was killed.
Since being detained, Miss Sayyaf has reportedly spent many hours helping American use maps to determine where Baghdadi may be bogged down.
"They were very polite [the American ] and wore civilian clothes," she told the Guardian, "I showed them everything I knew."
In February 2016, Miss Sayyaf is said to have provided the location of a house in the northern Iraqi city of where she believed Baghdadi was hiding out. Yet, despite being so close to bagging the world’s most wanted man, Kurdish officials told the Guardian that the US did not want to carry out an on the home for fear of killing civilians in the tightly packed neighbourhood.
"I told them where the house was," Umm Sayyaf is reported as having said.
"I knew he’d been there because it was one of the houses that was provided for him, and one of the places he liked the most," she told the Guardian.
|Dutch hostage killed while trying to escape from militants in Philippines|
|[AlAhram] A Dutch photographer held hostage by -linked in the Philippines since 2012 was killed on Friday by his captors when he tried to escape during a firefight on a remote southern island, the military said.|
Ewold Horn, a wildlife photographer, was shot by his guards from the group when he tried to flee during a clash between government troops and the s, said Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, commander of a Joint Task Force on Sulu island.
Horn and a fellow photographer, Lorenzo Vinciguerra from , were taken captive as they were sailing off an island called Tawi Tawi on a bird-watching trip more than seven years ago and later taken to Sulu. Vinciguerra escaped in 2014.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the Netherlands had informed Horn’s family.
"I am shocked by this terrible outcome", Blok said, "I have been in contact with the family. I will ask my counterpart in the Philippines for further clarification."
Six were also killed in the firefight in the town of town of Patikul on Sulu, Pabayo said. The circumstances of the firefight were not immediately clear.
Also killed during the clash on Friday was Mingayan Sahiron, the wife of Radullan Sahiron, a of the Abu Sayyaf, the military said.
Radullan Sahiron is on a U.S. State Department wanted list with a $1 million reward for his capture since his involvement in the kidnapping of U.S. tourists in 2001.
He was believed to have escaped the clash, another military said.
The Abu Sayyaf, a small but violent group in the south of the largely Catholic Philippines, has been known for extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, and has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
It earlier pledged allegiance to the al Qaeda group.
|Philippines: Tests confirm death of IS-linked chief Abu Dar|
|[DW] DNA tests have confirmed the death of the last known leader of an Islamist assault on Marawi city in the southern Philippines. Authorities feared that Abu Dar could use looted wealth to revivify the battered insurgency.|
Officials in the Philippines on Sunday confirmed the death of Owaida Marohombsar, who went by the nom de guerre of Abu Dar,
Marohombsar was one of few leaders to survive a 2017 attack on the city of Marawi, where he managed to escaped with large amounts of cash looted during the siege. Philippines authorities feared he would use the wealth to rebuild the Dawla Islamiya group, an alliance of pro- (IS) fighters.
Manila confirmed the Islamist leader as one of four killed in a clash with the Philippine military in March.
The Philippines hailed the killing as a significant development that would hamper efforts by IS to establish a presence in the region.
PURSUIT OF REMAINING FIGHTERS
"This is another milestone in our campaign to finish and defeat ISIS and local terror groups in the country," said Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, using an acronym of the Islamic State group.
"For now, his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar," said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The army's Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner said troops would pursue Marohombsar's remaining fighters, based not far from Marawi.
LEADING FIGURE OF RESURGENCE
Marohombsar is believed to have escaped Marawi with a large amount of looted cash and jewelry. Regional official Zia Adiong estimated at the time that Marohombsar got away from Marawi with at least 30 million pesos ($580,000; €510,000) in stolen money.
According to a Philippine police profile, Marohombsar, a native of the Lanao del Sur region, which includes Marawi, underwent military and explosives training in Afghanistan in 2005.
MONTHSLONG URBAN BATTLE
The Philippine government has signed a peace deal with the largest rebel group in the country, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The agreement has this year seen fighters become administrators of their own five-province autonomous region. The southern Philippines is home to most of the Roman Catholic nation's minority s.
Remnants of the MILF , the , who earlier broke away from the main group, were responsible for the attack on Marawi.
Dawla Islamiya launched its attack on Marawi in May 2017 and fought within and around the city for five months. The assault was quelled after months of ground attacks and s by the military.
Among the Islamist leaders killed was Isnilon Hapilon, IS's anointed "emir" in Southeast Asia.
|20 BIFF militants killed in Maguindanao clashes|
|[Rappler] At least two foreign fighters are believed to be among the 20 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed in military operations that began on Monday, March 11.|
Philippine military spokesman Cirilito Sobejana said “more or less 20” were killed “including one foreign terrorist." He said the body of an Arab-looking fighter was seen among the dead.
Sobejana said Singaporean militant Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, known as Mauwiyah, was also in the area along with BIFF subleader Salahudin Hassan during the air strikes. They are believed to be among those killed. He said they're still retrieving the body parts so the fatalities may be identified.
The 6th ID launched on Monday, March 11, air strikes and ground operations against BIFF fighters in the so-called “SPMS box” – the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Salibo where the different BIFF factions operate. Up to 1,360 families or more than 5,000 residents were displaced in the military operations that was supposedly coordinated with local government units and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Captain Arvin Encinas, 6th ID spokesman, said the deaths resulting from the operations significantly reduced the number of BIFF combatants. He said they have names of at least 17 of the fighters killed in the operations, based also on information from the community. He said residents believe Mauwiyah was among those killed although only two bodies were recovered. Mauwiyah is a senior Jema'ah Islamiyah member reportedly associated with Moro militants.
The military estimates that over 200 fighters compose the three different factions of the breakaway group of the MILF, which now heads the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
|Singaporean militant Mohamed Kazali Salleh owned businesses in JB, including massage parlours: Sources|
|[AsiaOne] A Singaporean recently for activities had multiple businesses in Johor Baru, ranging from massage parlours to restaurants.|
Sources said the suspect, whom Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs identified as Mohammed Kazali Salleh, 48, also brought in scrap cars from Singapore and Indonesia to Malaysia.
"The authorities are investigating whether the businesses were a front for the terror group," said a source, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mohammed Kazali was among six suspected detained by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division in anti-terror sweeps between Dec 19 and Jan 28.
The , who had given funds and received orders from Malaysian leader Akel Zainal, was told to recruit a few others for an attack on a Freemason building in central Johor Baru, another source said.
"He has been in close contact with Akel since 2008. Authorities discovered that in December last year, Akel told him to target a Freemason building in the Nong Chik area," the source said.
The suspect was handed over to the Singaporean authorities on Jan 7 after Bukit Aman completed the investigations.
Mohammed Kazali was detained under the country's Internal Security Act.
"Based on intelligence, the suspect was not leading any terror cell in the island republic," said a source.
Five others detained along with Mohammed Kazali during the operations by Bukit Aman police were two Malaysians and three men from Bangladesh, the Philippines and a south Asian country.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun had said the two local men had been deported from a foreign country for their involvement with ISIS, and were arrested in Sepang.
It is learnt that the duo were working at a farm in Australia before being deported.
A 21-year-old Filipino, who was a member of the Group, was arrested in Kota Kinabalu followed by a 26-year-old south Asian man who was detained in Puchong along with a Bangladeshi cleaner in Klang.
Sources said the south Asian man had been harbouring his fellow countrymen for a month.
"His friend is listed under Interpol's Red Notice for his involvement in terrorist activities," the source said.
The latest arrests bring the total number of detained since February 2013 to 459 people.
|Malaysia arrests six accused of planning attacks, links to militants|
|[AlAhram] Malaysian authorities said on Friday they have six people, including four foreigners, suspected of planning attacks or being members of groups.|
Malaysia has been on high alert since allied with (IS) carried out a series of attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.
Police said the six were arrested in five separate raids between December and January, on suspicion of planning attacks or having links to groups.
"They include two Malaysians and four foreigners from Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines and a South Asian country," Fuzi Harun, police inspector general, said in a statement posted on social media.
The group included a 48-year-old Singaporean accused of planning to attack a building used by Freemasons in the state of Johor. He is believed to have links with Akel Zainal, a Malaysian identified as an IS fighter in Syria, police said.
Police also detained a suspected member of the Group (ASG) in a separate raid in the eastern state of Sabah, where he worked as a laborer. The 21-year-old suspect is believed have ties with ASG leader Furuji Indama, Fuzi said.
A 28-year-old man from an unidentified South Asian country was arrested during a raid in Selangor state. Interpol had issued a warrant, known as a red notice, for his suspected involvement in criminal and activities, Fuzi said.
Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to groups.
|Eight dead as Philippine soldiers clash with Abu Sayyaf militants|
|[AlAhram] Philippine troops killed three suspected and suffered five fatalities during a firefight on a remote southern island, the military said on Saturday.|
The clash with more than 100 members of the Abu Sayyaf group broke out in the town of Patikul in the Sulu province at 11:30 a.m. as troops pursued those behind a church attack on Sunday, Colonel Gerry Besana, for the military's Western Mindanao Command said.
The church bombing in Sulu, which killed 22 people and more than 100 including civilians and soldiers, was a carried out by an Indonesian couple, with help of the Abu Sayyaf group, Interior Minister Eduardo Año said on Friday.
Abu Sayyaf is a organization notorious for kidnappings and factions and has pledged allegiance to . Sulu province, in the country's Mindanao region, is a known stronghold of the group.
The encounter in Patikul lasted nearly two hours, Besana said, with five soldiers and 15 also .
Martial law has been in place in Mindanao since domestic and dressed in black outfits overran Marawi City in 2017 and clung on through five months of air strikes and street battles reminiscent of scenes in Syria and Iraq.
|Islamist jihadists prime suspects in Philippine cathedral bombing|
Two s tore through the cathedral on the -majority island of Jolo yesterday, killing worshipers at Sunday mass and security forces in an attack claimed by the terror group.
Authorities say the so-called Ajang-Ajang faction is a small band of several dozen that most likely carried out the bombing, the Philippines’ worst in years, in an act of .
"Last year their leader was killed. There have been persistent reports that they will retaliate," regional military Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana tells AFP.
"Yes, we saw them in the CCTV. It was the brother of the leader who was killed," he says referring to footage from outside the cathedral. "He was seen with two other members of Ajang-Ajang."
Security forces say the group is composed of relatives of Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group members who have been killed in with the government.
The vote was the result of negotiations started in the 1990s with the nation's largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and will give it considerable power over the so-called Bangsamoro region.
The IS claim, in a formal communique, said two s had detonated s, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activities.
But a military report said the second bomb was left in the utility box of a in the parking area outside the church. Police said they believe the explosives were detonated remotely, but did elaborate.