Security forces shot dead four suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-linked and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists in a joint police and military raid in Don Bosco, Paranaque City minutes past Friday midnight.
Police Major General Debold Sinas, regional director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), identified the suspects as Bensaudi Sali alias “Boy,” 37; his reported wife Merhama Abdul Sawari alias “Mheng,” around 40 to 45 years old; Rasmin Hussin alias “Boscon;” and Jamal Kalliming alias “Pando.”
According to Sinas, joint units from the NCRPO, Paranaque City police, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA) tried to serve a search warrant at the house of Sali in Better Living Subdivision around 12:30 a.m. when they were met with gunfire.
Further, the suspects allegedly tried to lob a grenade at the police and military but it went off prematurely, Sinas said.
The security forces retaliated which eventually led to the killing of the suspects.
According to the NCRPO Chief, the operation stemmed from the intelligence information they received about the presence of a group of Dawlah Islamiyah acting as a financial conduit in Paranaque City beginning in November 2019.
Dawlah Islamiyah (Arabic for Islamic State) is a faction of the ASG that is affiliated with the ISIS. It is being headed by ASG sub-leader Hajan Sawadjaan.
“They were tagged as a financial conduit of Daesh-East Asia because of their established connection with Dawlah Islamiyah bomb expert and sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan alias Abu Marwan,” Sinas said, referring to the nephew of Hajan.
The operation was covered with a warrant issued by Judge Noemi Balitaan, of the Paranaque City Regional Trial Court Branch 258, for violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
The incident also resulted in the wounding of Police Corporal Ehrol Gamboa, who is assigned at the regional Security Operations Group (RSOG) of the NCRPO.
He was hit in the leg and brought to a hospital in Taguig City for immediate treatment.
According to joint intelligence reports, Sali was a member of the ASG Dawlah Islamiyah in Sulu. He was a native of Jolo who had been working as a security guard in a residential condominium in Paranaque City.
Meanwhile, Sawari was also tagged as an ASG terrorist. She was said to be working as the group’s finance and logistics facilitator of support coming from Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Sawari even received a money remittance from Indonesian terrorist Yoga Fabrianto, who was also linked to ISIS, before the latter was arrested in Sabah, Malaysia in June 2019, according to intelligence reports.
During his arrest, Fabrianto told Malaysian authorities that an Indonesian couple was behind the infamous Jolo Cathedral twin bombings on January 27, 2019 that killed 23 people.
Hussin and Kalliming, who were both security guards like Sali, were alleged cohorts of the two ASG suspects, according to intelligence reports.
During the clearing operations after the raid, authorities recovered on the encounter site three blasting caps, various wires, two bottles of white and brownish granules which are suspected to be ingredients in making explosives, two pistols, two revolvers, two ISIS flags, two hand grenades, an M16 rifle, a match, a plastic container with silver powder, an improvised hand grenade fuse assembly with detonating cord, and a nine -volt battery.
With the death of the four suspects, Sinas vowed to further intensify their intelligence efforts to apprehend security threats in Metro Manila.
AFP calls for ATB enactment
Following the death of suspected terrorists in Metro Manila, the AFP called for the hastened signing into law of the Anti-terrorism bill (ATB) which is now waiting for President Duterte’s signature.
General Felimon Santos, AFP Chief of Staff, said the “unwanted presence” and neutralization of the suspected terrorists only proved that terror groups won’t recognize the dire situation that the country is facing amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic should they wish to launch an attack.
“Not even COVID-19 could deter or prevent the terrorists ASG and their cohorts from planning and looking for the opportune time to strike and kill or maim innocent civilians and to destroy massively government infrastructure and private property,” Santos said in a statement.
He said the incident “highlights” the need for Duterte to expedite the signing and immediate implementation of the ATB.
“It is public security and general welfare at stake. We should protect and defend from terrorists — without further delay than it had already been — fellow Filipinos from wanton death or destruction of their property,” he said.
The ATB, which passage in the Congress was met with criticisms due to supposedly vague and broad provisions that could target dissenters of the government, is now being reviewed by the legal team of Duterte, according to Malacanang.