ZAMBOANGA CITY – An Abu Sayyaf militant linked to the spate of ransom kidnappings in Sabah in Malaysia and Philippines was killed in a shootout with security forces at a checkpoint in the southern Filipino province of Tawi-Tawi, officials said Thursday.
Officials said Shaifful Julaili engaged troops in a firefight while trying to flee the checkpoint in Lapid-Lapid village in the capital town of Bongao. There was no report of casualties on the side of security forces.
“The Abu Sayyaf, Shaifful Jalaili, violently escaped the checkpoint and fired at government troops which prompted them to retaliate and killed him,” said Rear Adminral Rene Medina, chief of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao. He said the Jalaili was involved in the series of kidnapping activities in Sulu Sea, particularly in the boundaries of Tawi-Tawi and Sabah.
Medina said the slain militant was also implicated in the recent kidnappings of Indonesian fishermen off Sabah, but it was not immediately known whether Jalaili and his pro-ISIS group is planning to launch new kidnappings in the area. Security forces have put up roadblocks and checkpoints in many areas in Tawi-Tawi as part of an intensified campaign against lawlessness.
Troops are battling Abu Sayyaf fighters in the neighboring province of Sulu where a pair of suicide bombers attacked a cathedral in the capital town of Jolo on January 27 that killed at least 2 dozen people and injured over 100 more. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings and President Rodrigo Duterte, quoting intelligence reports, said an Indonesian couple was behind the attacks.
Five local men linked by authorities to the twin attacks have surrendered recently to deny the accusations against them, but police filed criminal charges against them after government prosecutors said they have “more than enough” evidence to indict the suspects. But the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Hajan Sawadjaan, who is also the emir of ISIS inn the Philippines, and over a dozen other militants also tied to the attacks, are still at-large and being hunted down by thousands of soldiers and police commandos.
Duterte, who inspected the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral a day after the bombings, ordered security forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders pledged allegiance with the Islamic State, and vowed to fight for the establishment of a caliphate in the restive region. (Mindanao Examiner)