Philippine security forces shot dead a senior Islamist commander on Sunday, following an intense firefight aboard a speedboat near the embattled island of Jolo.
Salvador “Badong” Muktadil, sub-leader commander in the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was wanted on charges of murder, kidnapping and attacks on foreign ships at the sea border with Malaysia.
The altercation came amid a counter-terror operation led by the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu of the coast of Jolo, where the Philippine army has declared all-out war with the Islamist ASG. International anti-terror watchdog Counter Extremism Project reports that the militants pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in 2014.
The death of the Islamist commander is likely to be seen as a major loss for the militant group. JTF Brigadier-General Cirilito Sobejana told local news that “the neutralisation of Badong is another big setback on the Abu Sayyaf group, particularly on their kidnapping and terroristic activities.”
“His death rendered high seas kidnappings, particularly in Tawi-Tawi and Sabah, suppressed,” Sobejana added in an official statement.
Mukatadil was wanted for a string of serious offences including the kidnapping of Naga City Mayor, Gemma Adana, Taiwanese tourist Evelyn Chang, and Yahong Lim, the daughter of a Chinese businesswoman, in addition to nine counts of murder, CNN reports.
Mukatdil’s death comes almost exactly a year after his two brothers, Nelson and Braun Muktadil, were also shot dead in a surprise raid on Sulu island in the south of the country. Thought to be the sons of a well-known pirate who operated in the waters off Sabah’s Semporna from the neighbouring Tawi Tawi chain of islands, the three went on to form their own cross-border kidnapping group.
Who Are the ASG?
ASG is one of the smallest jihadist groups in the Southern philippines, using extreme violence to gain notoriety. The name literally translates to ‘bearer of the sword’ and the group are known for kidnapping and attacks on both the military and civilian population.
In 2004, the ASG bombed a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people. More recently, militants beheaded a German tourist after kidnapping him from his yacht and failing to secure a ransom of $780,000.
As well as pledging allegiance to ISIS, the group has received training and funding from Al Qaeda and is currently fighting alongside the Maute militant groups in the Southern Philippines in the large-scale siege of Marawi city.