On February 3rd, Philippines security forces killed at least eight militants in an assault on a jungle lair in the south of the country, where Singaporean terrorist Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, Straits Times reported.
Major-General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division told reporters that the Singaporean terrorist known as Muawiyah, was among “high-value targets” inside the camp on war-torn Mindanao island.
He, however, managed to survive the attack and escaped successfully.
According to the reports the camp was the headquarters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
A 226kg bomb was dropped on the main fortification inside the camp, in Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao province, where Muawiyah and six other foreign terrorists – two Malaysians, two Indonesians and two “Middle Eastern-looking” men – were believed to have been housed, Maj-Gen Sobejana said.
“We’re still pursuing them and checking if he was among those hit by the bomb,” Sobejana said, referring to the Singaporean terrorist.
He said that eight bodies of militants were recovered after the camp was captured.
“The BIFF is a splinter group of the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main secessionist group that has signed a peace pact with the government,” Straits Times reported.
Muawiyah appears to be a legendary terrorist, who is the prime suspect of a kidnapping of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sulu province, in Mindanao island, in 2009.
“He fled to Mindanao in the 1990s with Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and the two men at one time were described as “the most important international terrorists currently operating in South-east Asia”.
Both were said to be skilled at making bombs, and had recruited and trained hundreds of militants from abroad who fled to safe havens in war-torn Mindanao island.
The Malaysian, Marwan, was killed in a raid in 2015 by police special forces on his hideout in Mamasapano town, also in Maguindanao. Tests done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed his death.
Muawiyah, on the other hand, was first reported killed in an air strike in Jolo province in 2012. This was never verified.
He was again said to have died in military offensives across Maguindanao in 2016. Again, there was no confirmation,” Straits Times summarized the terrorist’s past.
Another suspected Singaporean militant, Abu Hud Zain, was earlier reported by a senior Philippine military official to have been killed in clashes in Mamasapano on December 22nd. His death and those of four other militants were the cause of the New Year’s Eve bombing of a Cotabato city mall in 2018.
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said in a February 4th email that “our checks so far indicate that Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, alias Muawiyah, is the only Singaporean known to be currently involved in militant groups operating in southern Philippines.
There has been no confirmation that Abu Hud Zain, who was reportedly killed in southern Philippines in December 2018, is a Singaporean.”
Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the military is keeping tabs on at least 44 foreign terrorists who have sought refuge in Mindanao.
Separately, eight soldiers and three militants were killed on February 2nd during a firefight in Patikul town, in Sulu province off Mindanao.
The clash between a Rangers unit and more than 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters broke out as security forces pursued those behind an attack on a Roman Catholic cathedral in Sulu. The two suicide bomber attack left 22 dead and over 100 injured.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a text message: “The enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region.
“The (military) will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals… We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars.
“The law will give them no mercy,” he said.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement that he had “directed our troops to heighten their alert level, secure all places of worship and public places at once, and initiate proactive security measures to thwart hostile plans”.
General Benjamin Madrigal, the military chief, called the attack a “treachery”, and said he had already ordered security forces “to pursue the criminals with the full force of the law”.