SUSPECTED jihadist leader Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid, alias Commander Tokboy, has slipped past the military cordon in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat and is believed to have fled to the hinterlands of the province’s coastal towns, the military said on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of the First Marine Brigade based in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, said elements of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team and the Philippine National Police have overrun the 50-hectare camp of the Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines after weeklong operations.
But Maguid remained at large although eight of his men were earlier killed in a four-hour battle on Nov. 26. Among the slain was Indonesian bomber Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, who is believed to be the group’s link to another jihadist group in Indonesia.
“In due time we will get him and his men,” Salamat said. “We continue our relentless campaign.”
On Nov. 26, the Marines and agents of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group went to Sitio Sinapangan, Barangay Butril to serve the arrest warrants against Maguid who is accused of various crimes, including a bombing in Gen. Santos City.
But when security forces approached the village, about 40 heavily armed lawless elements opened fire on government forces at 5:30 a.m., triggering the four-hour battle.
Salamat said Ali, who carries several other names, was a senior member of the Mujahideen Indonesian Timur and was believed to be training local militants on bomb making. PNA
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Sixth Infantry Division commander, said the Indonesian national was first arrested in Zamboanga City for illegal possession of firearms in 2005 but was released from detention in 2013 due to lack of merit of the case filed against him.
He said Ibrahim Ali had since been monitored to be with Commander Tokboy after his release, teaching bomb making.
Pangilinan identified the other fatalities as Abdul Halil, Tatuh Sumail and Kira Sabiwang, all resident of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Four others remained unidentified.
Marine forces recovered one cal. 50 sniper rifle, 20 rounds of ammunition for cal. 50, an M-16 Armalite rifle, a cal. 45 pistol, bomb making materials, ATM cards, Philhealth cards and six ISIS flags.
Pangilinan said Commander Tokboy has four standing warrants of arrest and was involved in a series of atrocities and violence in the South Cotabato area since August 2008.
He was previously apprehended in 2009 by the security forces at Maasim, Sarangani Province. However, he managed to escape from Bulantay Jail, Alabel, Sarangani after seven months of imprisonment.
He had been a fugitive for half a decade and was engaged in various crimes, including cattle rustling, extortion, highway robbery and murders.
Salamat said about 250 families have fled the village of Butril but the local governments and the Philippines Marines are attending to their needs.
Both Pangilinan and Salamat maintained that government forces are still seeking additional pieces of evidence that would directly link the lawless armed group to ISIS.
“Except from ISIS flags, no other concrete proof the group was indeed legitimate member of ISIS,” Pangilinan said.
He surmised the ISIS flags could be used by the group to show sympathy to the international terrorist group.
ISIS flags were also found in Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camps captured by the 6th Infantry Division operating troops in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay in Maguindanao early this year.
The same flags were found in areas where Maguindanao bomber Basit Usman used to stay in the Liguasan marshland. Usman was killed by combined government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces in Maguindanao in May.