ABU Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has been designated “amir of Southeast Asia” by the terror group Daesh, has been seriously wounded in military airstrikes in Butig, Lanao del Sur, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday.
Lorenzana said Hapilon was “seriously wounded” in military air strikes on Wednesday and was being carried on a stretcher as they flee pursuing government troops.
“As of [Friday, Hapilon] is still being carried by four men in a makeshift stretcher moving northeast of Butig,” Lorenzana told AFP. “Troops are in hot pursuit supported by ground artillery and air support.”
Lorenzana added the military offensive killed four of Hapilon’s companions including an Indonesian he identified only as “Mohisen.”
The 50-year-old Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of Americans in the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US government.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Peruvian-American tourist Guillermo Sobero from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan. They were brought to Sulu, the Abu Sayyaf’s main stronghold in Mindanao.
The following year, Martin Burnham and Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap were killed in a government rescue operation. Sobero was later beheaded and Gracia was able to escape.
Hapilon has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, or Daesh, which named him “amir for Southeast Asia,” according to a 2016 report by the Jakarta-based thinktank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.
“Southeast Asians in Syria have pledged their loyalty to him,” the report said.
Hapilon was based in Basilan but Lorenzana said this week that he had moved to Lanao del Sur in a bid to establish an IS presence there and is “trying to rally” cooperation from the Maute group, another gang which had pledged allegiance to IS.
On Friday, policemen arrested a sub-leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf at his hiding place in Zamboanga City.
The suspect was identified as Faizal Jaafar, who was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest at around 12:30 p.m. by combined police and military operatives.
Jaafar is suspected to be involved in kidnapping and serious illegal detention (87 counts) in connection with the Sipadan kidnapping incident in 2001.
Military sources said Jaafar was being enticed by Hapilon to join him in Central Mindanao, particularly in Butig town in Lanao del Sur, where he had been hiding since December last year.
Last year, video footage posted on the internet showed Hapilon and his followers in Basilan declaring allegiance to IS.
The military said Hapilon and other Abu Sayyaf groups are one with the Maute Group; Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines; and other rogue groups spun away from the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front have been trying to merge into one coherent organization, the better to be recognized by Daesh as an affiliate.
Military and police intelligence said the group called Dawlatul Isaiah Waliyatul Masrik is shaping to be the umbrella organization of these terror groups.
“They have chosen Hapilon to be their ‘governor’ for the ‘wilayat’ or caliphate. That’s the drift of the information we are getting at this time,” a police intelligence officer said.
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