By Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Philippine security forces on Tuesday killed a suspected member of an Islamic State-affiliated group who was linked to a 2018 bombing that left two people dead at a shopping mall, police said.
The suspect, Abraham Abad Abdulrahman (alias Abu Suffian), was gunned down during a pre-dawn raid at his home in southern Cotabato city, said Maj. Esmael Madin, the deputy police chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“He pulled out a gun and opened fire against our cops,” Madin told BenarNews. “They retaliated and killed him in the exchange.”
An accomplice identified as Jasmiya Camsa Ibrahim escaped, Madin said, adding that officers recovered a .45-caliber pistol, a hand grenade and bomb-making materials from the hideout.
Abdulrahman was among suspects wanted in a bomb attack that killed two and injured 34 others at the South Seas Mall Complex in Cotabato on Dec. 31, 2018, Madin said.
The dead man worked under Abu Turaife, leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), according to officials. The BIFF split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had signed a peace deal with the government and controls the Bangsamoro autonomous region in the southern Philippines.
Turaife broke away from the MILF chain-of-command to lead a few dozen followers. He is pushing for full independence on Mindanao Island, where Muslims are a large minority.
After pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS), Turaife did not join the raid of the southern city of Marawi in 2017.
Last week, a suspected BIFF bomb maker, Abdul Rashid Lamalan, was killed by troops as he tried to smuggle an improvised bomb into the town of Isulan in nearby Sultan Kudarat province, said Col. Roy Galido, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade.
He said Lamalan died after he pulled a gun on officers at a police checkpoint.
“Army intelligence reports showed that Lamalan was linked to the Marawi siege and managed to escape along with other Abu Sayyaf terrorists,” Galido said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of militants based on the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo. It is known mostly for kidnappings, beheadings and bomb attacks.
An Abu Sayyaf commander, Isnilon Hapilon, had formed an alliance with IS and led militants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia in taking over Marawi in May 2017. They had planned to make the predominantly Muslim city the seat of their caliphate in the mostly Catholic Philippines.
Troops reclaimed the destroyed city five months later, after it was heavily bombed by government forces. As many as 1,200 people – mostly militants – died in the fighting.