MANILA: Philippine troops killed four Abu Sayyaf militants in a gun battle on Sunday (Jun 13) in the country's south, including a commander blamed for beheadings and a suspected would-be suicide bomber, military officials said.
Army troops backed by police were to serve a warrant for the arrest of Injam Yadah at his home after midnight in Alat village in Jolo town in Sulu province, when he and his men opened fire.
That sparked the gun battle that killed the militants, said regional military commander Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr.
Yadah had been accused by the military of involvement in the kidnappings for ransom of Filipinos and foreigners, including eight Indonesian fishermen who were abducted at sea off Malaysia in early 2020 and brought to the southern Philippines.
Three of the Indonesians were freed, one was shot and killed while attempting to escape and four were rescued by Filipino troops in March.
"He had a reputation for being extremely violent, beheading captured innocent civilians and security forces alike," a military commander, Major General William Gonzales, said of Yadah.
Yadah had also been linked to the 2015 kidnappings of four people, including two Canadian tourists. The Canadians were separately beheaded by their Abu Sayyaf captors, including Mujir Yadah, a brother of Injam, after a deadline for ransom payment lapsed, a military officer said.
Another Abu Sayyaf militant killed in Sunday's firefight was Al Sawadjaan, a bomb-maker and would-be suicide bomber, according to Lieutenant Colonel Wilfredo Borgonia, an army infantry battalion commander.
Troops seized a rifle, a pistol, bomb parts and 15 cellphones. They also took into custody Yadah's wife and three children, the military said in a statement, adding the children were “rescued”.
Sawadjaan was a younger brother of Abu Sayyaf commander Mundi Sawadjaan, the main suspect in a number of deadly suicide attacks in recent years in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province where the militants have been the target of years-long military offensives.
The Sawadjaans belonged to an Abu Sayyaf faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
This year, at least 18 Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed, 17 captured while 86 others have surrendered in Sulu, the military said.
The US and the Philippines have separately blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organisation for deadly bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.
The brutal group has been considerably weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism but remains a national security threat.