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Southeast Asia
Three suspected Abu Sayyaf bombers killed before suicide mission
[Inquirer] Three suspected Abu Sayyaf suicide bombers were killed in a clash with Philippine security forces in Indanan, Sulu on Tuesday afternoon. The suspects were about to carry out a suicide bombing mission, when they were flagged down by soldiers at a checkpoint at Barangay Kan Islam in Indanan town, military spokesman Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement.

The three suspects fired at the soldiers and a firefight lasted for five minutes. Two of the suspects were Egyptians — identified only as Abduramil and Abdurahman. The Egyptians were believed to be a father and son. One was Filipino, Sobejana said.

Sobejana said they are trying to confirm information that the two suspects were related to the female suicide bomber who attacked a military outpost, also in Sulu, in September.

In a security briefing also on Tuesday, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao said they had identified seven foreign terrorists in Mindanao, while 60 others remain on their watchlist.

“Foreign terrorist fighters are consistently monitored in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Sulu, planning to conduct suicide bombings as well as to provide funds and training,” he said.

Southeast Asia
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 maimed 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 Islamic State
...formerly ISIS or ISIL, depending on your preference. Before that they were al-Qaeda in Iraq, as shaped by Abu Musab Zarqawi. They're really very devout, committing every atrocity they can find in the Koran and inventing a few more. They fling Allah around with every other sentence, but to hear western pols talk they're not really Moslems....
-linked Abu Sayyaf
...also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya, an Islamist terror group based in Jolo, Basilan and Zamboanga. Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, murders, head choppings, and extortion in their uniquely Islamic attempt to set up an independent Moslem province in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf forces probably number less than 300 cadres. The group is closely allied with remnants of Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiya and has loose ties with MILF and MNLF who sometimes provide cannon fodder...

"It was a bomb and a firefight," army front man Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP, adding the attackers' identities were not immediately known.

An AFP news hound 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 Death Eaters in Jolo this year after at least one suspected jacket wallah attacked the island's Roman Catholic cathedral, killing 21 people.

Major Arvin Arcinas, the region's military front man, said three army members were killed in Friday's attack, with nine other soldiers were maimed.

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 gangs including the Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnappings and bombings.

The turbans, 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.

Southeast Asia
Two Abu Sayyaf rebels slain in Sulu
[Gulf Today] At least two Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in operations launched by Philippine security forces on the island province of Sulu in Mindanao. Police reported that lawmen killed the two armed rebels, who resisted and fired at them while being served a warrant for their arrest in the town of Indanan, Sulu on Wednesday afternoon.

Police said they also arrested four accomplices of the slain terrorists from whom were seized a shotgun, two pistols and assorted ammunition as well as several sachets of crystal meth.

The killings are part of continuing “search and destroy operations” launched by troops in Sulu and the neighboring island province of Basilan. In particular, the military said their attention has been focused on the rescue of at least 15 hostages held by the militants.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf releases three Indonesian captives
[AFP] Three Indonesian fishermen held by the Abu Sayyaf have walked free 18 months after they were abducted off the southern Philippines, the Philippine military said on Sunday. The men were kidnapped in January 2017 while on board a speedboat off the southernmost island group of Tawi-Tawi, which together with the nearby Sulu archipelago are preyed on by Abu Sayyaf militants.

The Indonesians were freed in the town of Indanan in Sulu on Saturday and “turned over” to authorities following “intensified military operations” against the rebel group, a regional army spokesman said without giving details. Asked if a ransom was paid, Lieutenant Colonel Gerry M. Besana said, “No, there was definitely no ransom given. (They) were pressured by our operations.”

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding 11 hostages, including a Dutch bird-watcher abducted in 2012 and a Vietnamese captive, according to Besana. The group has been known to behead hostages unless ransom payments are made.

Southeast Asia
Three Abu Sayyaf rebels killed in Sulu encounter
[PhilStar] Three Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed in a clash with troops in Indanan, Sulu on Thursday. Soldiers launched the offensive in Barangay Kuppong at around 4:30 a.m. One of the fatalities was identified as Pakam Sakam Sappari, who was tagged in recent kidnappings in Sulu.

On Wednesday, a soldier was killed and ten others were injured in a battle in Patikul. Troops clashed with militants led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Barangay Panglayahan.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf abducts Jolo town councilor
[PhilStar] Philippine security forces are pursuing the Abu Sayyaf rebels who abducted a town councilor of Jolo in the town of Indanan, Sulu. Brig. General Cirilito Sobejana identified the Abu Sayyaf's latest captive as Zed Tan, Jolo councilor and nephew of former Sulu governor Sakur Tan.

Police said Councilor Tan was seized by an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf militants on Wednesday evening in Indanan town. The victim was in his service vehicle when he was taken at gunpoint. The gunmen forced Tan into a getaway vehicle and escaped in the direction of Talipao town.

Tan's abduction raises the number of Abu Sayyaf captives in Sulu to 17 — including six Vietnamese, five Indonesians, a Dutch national, and five Filipinos.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf militant killed, two surrender in Sulu
[SunStar] An Abu Sayyaf rebel was killed and two others surrendered after Philippine troops clashed with the militants around 2 a.m. Friday in Bangalaw Island, Banguingui, Sulu. The rebels were under the late sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya, who was killed in a clash with marines last month in Indanan, Sulu. The gun battle resulted in the death of Misaya's follower identified only as Imbo.

There were no reported casualties on the government side while the Abu Sayyaf militants were believed to have suffered more casualties as bloodstains were found on their retreat path.

Sobejana said, "Imbo is an ASG/KFRG (Abu Sayyaf Group/Kidnap-for-ransom-group) member and trusted contact on Bangalaw island of the late Misaya. He is a KFR contact and facilitator in the island and a keeper of Misaya's firearms and pump boats used in kidnapping ventures."

The two Abu Sayyaf militants who surrendered were identified as Janatin Mudjaral Madjakin, and his son, Aldaside.

Southeast Asia
Four more Abu Sayyaf rebels killed in Basilan
[PNA]Four more Abu Sayyaf militants were killed after troops encountered two squads of rebels in two separate forested areas in Sumisip, Basilan on Saturday afternoon.

Military spokeswoman Jo-Ann Pentinglay said the slain rebels were part of a group of 15 to 20 terrorists. She said the bandits were in two separate groups when intercepted by the army's 4th Special Forces Battalion and 18th Infantry Battalion under the Joint Task Force Basilan who were on patrol.

The first firefight occurred at 2 p.m. Two rebels were killed and several others were injured. Troops later intercepted the fleeing rebels, killing two more at 9 p.m. Troops clearing the area discovered a temporary encampment near the encounter site.

Last week, two prominent Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders were killed in separate clashes in Inabanga, Bohol and Indanan, Sulu as the military stepped up its attacks on the terrorist group. Alhabsy Misaya, one of the most feared militants operating in Sulu, was killed by marines.

Days after Misaya's death, security forces intercepted and killed Muamar Askhali, alias Abu Rami, who was behind the beheading of two Canadian and a German hostage.

On Sunday, suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters set off an improvised bomb along the national highway in Datu Hofer, Maguindanao, the second roadside bombing in the province in less than 24 hours. Captain Arvin John Encinas said, "The roadside bombs were meant for government forces cruising the road network."

Encinas said the Army had launched artillery attacks toward nearby Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao where the BIFF was planning to overrun an Army base in the village of Pagatin.

Southeast Asia
Philippines: 23 Abu Sayyaf killed since hostage beheading
[ABS-CBN] At least 23 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in Sulu in a series of attacks launched by Philippine troops against the rebels following the beheading of German hostage Jurgen Kantner on February 26.

Western Mindanao Command spokesman Carlito Galvez said four separate clashes were fought between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul and Indanan in Sulu, and in parts of Basilan. In the first three encounters, at least 14 rebels were reportedly killed, with six others injured. Nine other rebels were killed in a gun battle Sunday in Barangay lumipad in Talipao, also in Sulu.

Galvez said that soldiers also nabbed four Abu Sayyaf suspects in two separate areas in Basilan on February 27. He identified the rebels as Hamja Ummal, Asid Abdul Pagong, Kili Alvarez Sabtal, and Hamidid Pantasan. Ummal and Pagong were captured in Al-Barka town, while the two others were arrested in Tipo-Tipo.

Galvez said the suspects, who are all teenagers, had been providing vital information to the Abu Sayyaf by serving as lookouts in places where military forces frequently pass.

The military also discovered an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Al-Barka, with at least 30 makeshift bunkers and 16 foxholes.

Galvez acknowledged the help of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who he said has been instrumental in some of their successful missions.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf beheads German captive
[PhilStar] The Abu Sayyaf has reportedly executed German captive Juergen Gustav Kantner after the deadline the terrorist group imposed for the ransom payment lapsed yesterday. Reports received by the military and police said the rebels led by sub-leader Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami, beheaded Kantner at about 3:30 p.m. in Indanan, Sulu.

Last Saturday, the military launched air strikes against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu as the ransom deadline approached. The Philippine Air Force 3rd Air Division used attack helicopters to pound 40 to 60 Abu Sayyaf militants with rockets.

Military spokesperson Jo-Ann Petinglay said ground commander Col. Cirilito Sobejana confirmed that the air strikes were directed against rebels encamped in the mountains of Patikul, Sulu.

Philippine security forces searched for Kantner's remains yesterday. Without the remains, the military and police said that though they received a report about the beheading, they could not officially confirm it.

Southeast Asia
Two Abu Sayyaf captives freed in Sulu
[Mindanao Examiner] Abu Sayyaf militants on Thursday freed two Philippine fishermen in the southern province of Sulu. The pair – Esteban Janamjam and Dolcesimo Almires – were recovered in the village of Tagbak, a known Abu Sayyaf stronghold in Indanan town. It is not known whether their families had paid ransoms or not.

Both men were seized by rebels in October last year off Pangutaran town, also in Sulu.

The military said the men were rescued by soldiers after intercepting them from two Abu Sayyaf guards who managed to escape but there was no immediate confirmation from the police.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf releases two hostages
[Tempo] A South Korean captain and a Filipino crewman abducted by the Abu Sayyaf three months ago were released yesterday. Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza reiterated the government's no ransom policy, but a military intelligence report said that R25 million was paid for the hostages' release.

Military spokesman Filemon Tan said the Moro National Liberation Front aided in the release of Korean captain Park Chung Hung and Glenn Alindajao. Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alden Bagade reportedly turned over the hostages to MNLF representatives in Indanan, Sulu yesterday morning.

In a press briefing, Alindajao described the captives' three-month ordeal. He said that they walked endlessly from one place to another on an empty stomach and slept, most of the time, under trees in the middle of the forest. He recounted, "We were almost hopeless but I am thankful we were able to come home safely with the help of Sir (Jess) Dureza and the president for assisting us."

In October, armed men identifying themselves as Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped the pair from a South Korean cargo ship, the first such attack on a large merchant vessel.

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