Thursday, August 2, 2018

Islamic State claims foreign fighter bombed military checkpoint in the Philippines

Posted to the Threat Matrix, the Long War Journal blog (Jul 31): Islamic State claims foreign fighter bombed military checkpoint in the Philippines

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in Lamitan, a city in the Basilan province of the Philippines. At least 10 people were killed and several others wounded in the blast, according to initial press reports. The so-called caliphate has posted a picture of the bomber, who is identified as Abu Kathir al-Maghrebi (seen above).

The suicide bomber’s alias indicates that he is from the Maghreb and likely a Moroccan. Indeed, pro-Islamic State Telegram channels said the “martyr” was from Morocco.

According to CNN, military officials blamed the blast on the Abu Sayyaf Group. But this is not inconsistent with the Islamic State’s claim, as the Abu Sayyaf Group’s leaders and several of the group’s “battalions” previously swore their fealty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Abu Sayyaf Group, which was once part of al Qaeda’s international network, helped the Islamic State grow in Southeast Asia, providing the self-declared caliphate with access to its local networks.

However, the suicide bomber responsible for today’s blast wasn’t a local — at least not according to the Islamic State’s media team.

The United Nations previously warned that the Philippines had become a destination for foreign fighters after the Islamic State captured the city of Marawi in May 2017. The takeover of Marawi was orchestrated by the so-called Maute Group, another local jihadist outfit that fueled the so-called caliphate’s expansion in the region. Despite losing control of Marawi several months later, the Islamic State remained a threat in the Philippines.

Marawi “emerged as a major symbolic and propaganda victory for” the Islamic State, the UN warned in a reported published this past January. The group’s “affiliates” had “succeeded in occupying an urban area, and, according to Member States, the [Islamic State] threat to the Philippines persists despite the end of the siege and the deaths of senior leaders.”

Citing its Member States, the UN warned that the siege of Marawi “could have long-term repercussions for the region and serve as inspiration for other militants,” as the “publicity value of the siege” was significant. The UN added that the siege had fueled “calls for foreign terrorist fighters to migrate to the region.”

The bombing earlier today highlights the fact that the Islamic State retains an operation arm in the Philippines in spite of significant leadership losses and other setbacks. The organization may well retain some significant connections to the Islamic State’s mothership in Iraq and Syria as well. In April, for example, the US Treasury Department sanctioned a female facilitator for the group named Myrna Mabanza. According to Treasury, Mabanza served as an “intermediary” between jihadists in the Philippines and their comrades in Syria. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury sanctions ISIS facilitator based in the Philippines.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

PH Navy to conduct comprehensive test of MPAC weapons

From Update Philippines (Aug 2): PH Navy to conduct comprehensive test of MPAC weapons

 Once weather conditions have improved, the Philippine Navy (PN) will conduct a comprehensive test of the Spike-ER surface-to-surface missiles and machine gun systems equipping three of its newly-activated multi-purpose assault craft (MPAC), Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

“The test will showcase, test, and affirm the missile-capability of the newly-equipped Boat Attack (BA) Mark III vessels and to inform the general populace and other stakeholders of the PN’s new assets and capabilities,” he added.

The Navy was supposed to test fire its Spike-ER missiles and other MPAC weaponry off Corregidor last July 17, 18, 24 and 26 but inclement weather conditions caused the postponement and rescheduling of the exercise to August.

Aside from the missile-armed boats, the PN will also deploy its AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters which are armed with 2.75-inch rockets and .50 caliber machineguns to showcase the inter-operability of its air and surface assets.

Tentatively, the weapons test will be started by the AW-109 attack helicopters firing its machineguns at designated targets, followed by MPACs firing its guns, followed by another run, using the Spike-ER missiles.

Philippine indigenous rocket program back on track

From Update Philippines (Aug 3): Philippine indigenous rocket program back on track

United Defense of the Philippines can confirm that this was DOST Balik Scientist and former US Naval aviator Leo Madrid Almazan. The Indigenous Rocket program is back on track.

UDP was granted more information by Leo Madrid Almazan regarding the planned indigenous rocket program and here is what he has to say:

“There will be two groups, the Rocket (Aero/Mechanical) and Sensor/Electronics side (ECE). The plan is to too test launch 5 rockets (1 meter to 2 meters in height first). the first test will just test the solid propellant engine. The second will be a 1 meter rocket with basic sensors (temperature/pressure/altitude). The third will be just under 2 meters long with full sensors including GPS and single parachute recovery. The fourth will be the same length but with dual parachute system. Then the fifth is a 10ft rocket. It is a sounding rocket for weather study.

I will have public releases as we go forward.

If choppers from Jordan do not arrive, Duterte vows resuming salvo of curses

From Rappler (Aug 1): If choppers from Jordan do not arrive, Duterte vows resuming salvo of curses

President threatens to revive his tirades against UN rights chief and Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein if a donation of choppers does not arrive soon

WORD WAR. President Rodrigo Duterte has called UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein 'emtpy-headed.' Zeid file photo from Johan Ordonez/AFP; Duterte file photo from Malacañang

WORD WAR. President Rodrigo Duterte has called UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein 'emtpy-headed.' Zeid file photo from Johan Ordonez/AFP; Duterte file photo from Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's patience appears to be wearing thin.

The Philippine leader said he would resume his tirades against Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, if Manila does not receive two choppers from Jordan soon.

"Hanggang ngayon wala pa yung helicopter. Bantay kayo, sir (Until now the choppers haven't arrived. You watch, sir)," he said on Tuesday, July 31 during the National Security Council anniversary.

"'Pag hindi dumating 'yun, tuloy ko talaga yung mura (If that doesn't arrive, I'll continue with the cursing)," he added.

Duterte had previously said he agreed to tone down his remarks about Zeid since the Philippine government was trying to seal a donation from Jordan of two Cobra attack helicopters.

The donation was the result of talks led by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr who was the official who asked Duterte to practice more restraint when speaking of Zeid, cousin of Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Esperon was present during Duterte's Tuesday speech.

Duterte did not mention when he wanted the refurbished Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan to arrive. Esperon had previously pegged their cost at $18 million (P942 million) each.

Duterte has called Zeid "empty-headed" and told him to "shut up" after the UN official said the Philippine leader needs "psychiatric evaluation."

Zeid has also been critical of Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.

A recent Social Weather Stations survey found that a majority of Filipinos found Duterte "bastos" (rude) for insulting Zeid.

IN PHOTOS: 6 Chinese ships guarding Panatag Shoal

From Rappler (Aug 1): IN PHOTOS: 6 Chinese ships guarding Panatag Shoal

Only one Philippine fishing vessel is spotted miles away from Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal)

FLYING OVER. Photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
FLYING OVER. Photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Six Chinese vessels were spotted guarding Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), or Bajo de Masinloc, as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) completed another flight over Philippine waters on Wednesday morning, August 1.

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Of the 6 Chinese vessels, two ships were spotted at the mouth of Panatag while 4 others surrounded the perimeter.

Only one Philippine fishing vessel was spotted miles away from Panatag.




This lone Philippine fishing vessel continues to sail these waters.

The PCG conducts these maritime domain awareness flights at least once a week over different islands in the West Philippine Sea. These flights ensure the continuous monitoring of activities in Philippine waters, and to protect Filipino fishermen as well as their livelihood.

Army nabs Islamic teacher in Basilan

From Rappler (Aug 2): Army nabs Islamic teacher in Basilan

Relatives of Indalin Jainul deny initial claims he was involved in the July 31 car blast

DETAINED. Indalin Jainul at the Lamitan City police station. Contributed photo

DETAINED. Indalin Jainul at the Lamitan City police station. Contributed photo

BASILAN, Philippines – The military has arrested an Islamic teacher alleged to have been involved in the recent car blast outside of Lamitan City that killed 10 people on July 31.

Arrested in Barangay Maganda in Lamitan City was Indalin Jainul, 58, an ustad who teaches at a madrasah in a village here. Soldiers said they caught him with a grenade.

Jainul’s cousin Jahra Sattra said Jainul had been missing since the day of the blast, and they only learned about his detention at the Lamitan police station last Wednesday, August 1.

Sattra denied that Jainul was involved in the blast.

The police said they have readied a criminal complaint against the suspect for multiple murder, multiple serious physical injuries, and violation of the anti-explosives law. No other details were available as of posting.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that the van explosion had indications of a suicide bombing.
The driver of the van, who died in the explosion, appeared to be a foreigner and did not speak the local language, according to the military's witnesses.

The military blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the blast.

Photo: Awaiting Demobilization

From MindaNews (Jul 29): Photo: Awaiting Demobilization

Young MILF fighters join the Consultative Assembly on the Bangsamoro Organic Law in Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on July 29, 2018. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro provides for the full disarmament and demobilization of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces after the full implementation of the peace deal. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Photo: Bangsamoro flaglets

From MindaNews (Jul 29): Photo: Bangsamoro flaglets

Supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wave Bangsamoro flaglets during the Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly on the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao inside Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 29 July 2018. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

MILF vows to help defeat terrorists

From MindaNews (Aug 2): MILF vows to help defeat terrorists

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will go after terrorists who derail efforts to bring peace and stability in Mindanao, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim announced on Thursday.

Condemning the lethal car bomb explosion in Basilan on Tuesday that killed 11 persons, including the suspected bomber, Murad instructed his commanders to be on full alert for the possibility of more terrorist attacks in the south.

“There will be no compromise with terrorists whose aims are to create chaos, destruction, and bloodshed. No quarters shall be given to them and they must be defeated at once. They must not be allowed to grow,” he said in a statement.

Murad also asked MILF members of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to coordinate with their counterparts in the government for possible joint action against terrorists, pursuant to the provisions of relevant agreements.

The CCCH and AHJAG are mechanisms in the Bangsamoro peace process that allow government-MILF coordination or cooperation involving military and anti-crime operations.

On August 1, the MILF Central Committee convened a special session and adopted a resolution, which reads in part: “The MILF Central Committee views with deep concerns the latest upsurge of violence and terrorism in Mindanao particularly in Basilan. The wounds inflicted on our people and peace-loving people of Marawi City on May 23 last year are still unhealed and aching; and here again, signs are clear: The terrorists are not yet down and out. Collectively and individually, we condemn this dastardly act as well as all other forms of violent extremism.”

The resolution also called on members of the MILF to be vigilant at all times and work together to oppose and defeat religious extremism.

The deadly explosion came less than a week after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which seeks to establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The creation of the new Bangsamoro political entity is the key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the government and the MILF signed in 2014.

ISIS claims responsibility for the Basilan suicide bombing

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 2): ISIS claims responsibility for the Basilan suicide bombing

The Islamic State on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in the southern Philippine province of Basilan that left over a dozen casualties.

In a post on its Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State said a Moroccan man carried out the daring assault against Filipino soldiers in Lamitan City on Tuesday and has identified the executor of the suicide bombing as Abu Katheer al Maghribi.

Abu Katheer al Maghribi

“A martyrdom attack leads to 15 Filipino soldiers being killed in the city of Lamitan on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines,” it said.

Philippine authorities said 11 people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint after government militias stopped the suspicious vehicle in Bulanting village, about 2 kilometers away from downtown Lamitan.

The Philippine military tried to downplay the explosion, saying, there was no proof that it was a suicide attack despite several witnesses reports claiming witnesses had seen the bomber before he detonated his van. Lamitan Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay, quoting a report, also said that the driver appeared to be a foreigner and could not speak the local dialect when stopped by soldiers at the army checkpoint.

The powerful explosion obliterated the vehicle and left a huge crater and among those killed were a woman and a child; and the militia commander whose unit is under the supervision of the Philippine Army. Five soldiers and several civilians were also wounded in the explosion.

Reports said the bomber came from a nearby town and heading to downtown Lamitan when his vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint.

Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, has strongly condemned the violence. He said a total of 11 people were killed in the blast.

“We condemn this brazen act of violence against our people, and trust that we will exert every effort to help the families affected by this incident and we will strengthen efforts to secure our region without compromising the rights of the Bangsamoro.”

“We mourn the loss of lives in this senseless attack to our safety, and we continue to thank those who have devoted and continue to devote their lives to securing peace in the Bangsamoro. The commitment to rights and safety of our people that we share with them defines our collective efforts, and we continue to stand and work with them as we seek justice for those who have lost their lives to conflict and violence,” he said.

Hataman also downplayed claims by the Islamic State, saying, it was propaganda by the terror group. “Mahilig naman mag-claim mga yan. Mga yan mahilig din mag-propaganda. Hindi naman suicide yun kasi nasita,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The province is a also known stronghold of the militant group Abu Sayyaf whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Several foreign fighters had been killed in clashes with soldiers in Basilan in recent years.

The Philippine military earlier urged the public to be on alert and stay vigilant at all times following attempts by pro-ISIS militants to bomb civilian targets in the restive southern region.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly called on militants to talk peace and also promised amnesty and financial aid if they surrender to the government.

PH Navy sailors capable of passing submarine training

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): PH Navy sailors capable of passing submarine training

While training Philippine Navy (PN) officers and enlisted personnel on submarine operations will take time, the ongoing "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC) exercises in Hawaii validates the Filipino sailors' skills in modern naval warfare, a Navy official said.

"Of course training for submarine takes time, we are already taking initial steps in preparing to have submarine capability," Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata said when asked Thursday if PN sailors can be trained to be skilled submarine crewmen.

"This involves examining our doctrines, organization, training, material, etc. so that we could properly and adequately handle new capabilities," he added.

Aside from submarine operations training, the PN's participation in RIMPAC, which started June 27 and will end on August 2, highlighted the Navy's capability to sail in the Asia-Pacific.

"Also the exercise validates our ability to extend our operational reach outwards the Asia-Pacific," Zata said.

Two ships, the strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) and frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), an AgustaWestland AW-109 naval helicopter, and around 700 marines and sailors participated in this year's RIMPAC.

The military assets and units participated in several RIMPAC exercises, which include helicopter cross-decking, live-fire exercises, a special operations training, ground-air-integration, and replenishment-at-sea, among others.

Earlier, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the acquisition of the country's first submarines will be brought forward to Horizon Two of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

The procurement of the naval craft was earlier scheduled for Horizon Three, which is expected to run from 2023 to 2028 while Horizon Two is scheduled from 2018 to 2022.

The budget for the program is roughly placed at PHP300 billion.

Horizon One covered the period 2013 to 2017 and resulted in the acquisition of the three Del Pilar-class frigates, 12 FA-50PH light-lift interim fighters, and two strategic sealift vessels, to name a few.

Zata said submarines are a great equalizer in the country's naval arsenal once acquired.

Army joins 'DAGIT-PA' joint military exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Army joins 'DAGIT-PA' joint military exercise

In line with the ongoing efforts to develop a military capability on joint operations, the Philippine Army (PA) announced that it has participated for the first time in the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Joint Exercise (AJEX), dubbed as "Dagat, Langit at Lupa" (DAGIT-PA).

Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, Army spokesperson, said the military joint exercise, which formally started at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija Wednesday, is the original inter-operability drill between the Air Force and Navy - with the integration of the PA and the AFP Special Forces this year.

DAGIT-PA, which would end Friday, is also being conducted in the Palawan-based Western Command and the Tarlac-headquartered Northern Luzon Command area-of-operations.

"It is a unilateral exercise focusing on the development of the AFP capability on joint operations," Villanueva added.

PA participation is focused on the conduct of command post and field training activities that are anchored on Territorial Defense and Internal Security Operations.

"The Army always put premium on training to achieve efficiency in the conduct of ground operations and to enhance personnel capacity as well as unit capabilities as part of joint and combined forces that will enable them to readily respond to address contingencies across the mission areas," Villanueva said.

Participating PA units include the Army Support Command with its Explosive and Ordnance Disposal and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear units, Training and Doctrine Command, Mechanized Infantry Division, Fort Magsaysay Army Station Hospital, 500th Engineer Combat Battalion, K-9 Battalion, Army Artillery Regiment, Army Signal Regiment, Civil Military Operation Regiment, and Army Aviation Battalion.

In addition, the 7th Infantry Division, aside from serving as host of the exercise, also participated - along with the AFP Special Operations Command with its Special Operation Forces component.

IED could have exploded prematurely: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): IED could have exploded prematurely: Lorenzana

While believing the blast in Lamitan, Basilan is the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hinted that the bomb could have prematurely exploded near the military checkpoint that intercepted the van carrying the improvised explosive device (IED).

"It could be a bombing mission in Lamitan by the ASG but the bomb prematurely exploded at the military checkpoint. We are still getting more info," he said in a text message to reporters Wednesday night.

Earlier, the DND chief lauded the sacrifices made by military personnel, who were killed while preventing the van containing the IED from reaching its intended target in Lamitan City.

"It is important to note that the explosive did not reach its intended objective because of our alert security forces. Sadly, some of them paid the ultimate price for protecting our people. Our hearts reach out to all the loved ones they have left behind," he added.

Tuesday's IED blast resulted in the deaths of 10 people, including the driver of the van loaded with the bombs, while seven others were wounded.

The fatalities included a soldier, four militiamen and four civilians, who were militia dependents.

Earlier reports placed the number of dead at 11 but this was later updated to 10 by the military.

Initial reports said the van suddenly exploded while the troops were about to inspect it at a checkpoint in the boundaries of barangays (villages) Bulanting, Colonia and Maganda in Lamitan City.

Military in C. Mindanao on high alert following Lamitan blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Military in C. Mindanao on high alert following Lamitan blast

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) here has maintained a high alert status following Tuesday’s blast incident in Lamitan City, Basilan that left 10 (not 11 as earlier reported) persons dead.

“As always, we are on high alert at all times considering that Mindanao is under martial law,” Capt. Arvin John Encinas, 6ID spokesperson, told Philippine News Agency in an interview Wednesday.

Encinas said they are specifically monitoring the movements of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) within the so-called “SPMS box,” referring to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak-Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano, and Datu Salibo, in Maguindanao’s second district.

In North Cotabato, government forces are also closely monitoring the  activities of communist New People’s Army guerrillas in the peripheries of Magpet, Makilala, Antipas and Arakan towns.

“Military operations against them are still very much in place,” he said.

On July 19, police and military authorities foiled a bombing attempt in Cotabato City, seizing a powerful improvised explosive device found inside a passenger van in Barangay Awang here. The 6ID said the bomb composition, fashioned from an 81mm mortar projectile with mobile phone as trigger mechanism, bore the signature style of the BIFF.

“We believe that the BIFF was behind the attempt to divert continuous military operations against them in Maguindanao,” Encinas said.

On Tuesday, 11 persons, including a suspected suicide bomber, were killed in a car bomb explosion at the military’s Magkawit detachment in the boundaries of Barangays Bulanting, Colonia, and Maganda in Lamitan. Five others were hurt in the blast.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor (ARMM) Mujiv Hataman condemned the Lamitan City blast, describing it as a brazen attack on the Bangsamoro people.

“We will exert every effort to help the families affected by this incident and we will strengthen efforts to secure our region without compromising the rights of the Bangsamoro,” Hataman said in a statement.

The 6ID area of responsibility includes the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and parts of Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Sur.

Zambo Norte town officials turn over 25 loose firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Zambo Norte town officials turn over 25 loose firearms

Barangay officials in the town of Godod, Zamboanga del Norte on Tuesday have surrendered 25 loose firearms to military authorities. (Photo courtesy: First Infantry Division PIO)

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Village officials of Godod town, Zamboanga del Norte, have surrendered 25 loose firearms to government authorities, a top military official said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s First Infantry Division commander, said Godod municipal Mayor Abel Matildo led the turnover of the loose firearms in a ceremony held on Tuesday at the town’s gymnasium.

Murillo said the firearms were received by Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, commander of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade. The unlicensed guns consisted of an M-14 rifle; a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle; three M-16 Armalite rifles; two M-79 Grenade Launchers; a Carbine rifle; 10 homemade shotguns; a caliber .45 pistol; and six caliber .38 revolvers.

The surrender of the loose firearms was made possible through the joint efforts of the military, police, municipal and barangay officials of Godod and other stakeholders, the Army offcial said.

“The mass surrender and turn-over of loose firearms will minimize violent incidents and atrocities in our area of responsibility. Peaceful municipality will also attract investors, which means more job and employment will be created that would lead into a progressive locality,” he said.

TF Davao tells Dabawenyos to be vigilant vs. terrorists

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): TF Davao tells Dabawenyos to be vigilant vs. terrorists

The Task Force (TF) Davao on Wednesday called on Dabawenyos to remain vigilant following Tuesday's bombing incident in Lamitan, Basilan that left 10 persons dead and wounded five others.

Col. Nolasco Mempin, TF Davao commander, also asked the public to immediately report suspicious persons, who might be out to sow terror in the city.

"As I always mention, we need the full support and cooperation of all the stakeholders by being vigilant and by reporting immediately any suspicious looking person or unattended baggage," he said.

Mempin said residents may also report to the security guard or to  police auxiliary members in their area so that the latter can contact the police.

Although there is no report on the presence of ISIS-linked groups in the city, Mempin said the TF Davao will continue to intensify intelligence gathering.

He said security forces in the city are always on heightened alert, as it is the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

With the holding of Kadayawan Festival later this month, Mempin said people can expect stricter security measures to ensure the safety of residents and tourists.

As in past major events, Mempin said people are discouraged from bringing backpacks and canisters in all activity areas to avoid any inconvenience.

"Sa ating mga Dabawenyo, ang inyo pong Task Force Davao at other security forces here in Davao are doing its best para maging safe and secure and Davao (To the Dabawenyos, your Task Force Davao and other security forces here in Davao City are doing its best to make you safe and secure in the city)," he said.

AFP chief eyes extortion behind Basilan blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): AFP chief eyes extortion behind Basilan blast

AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (left) holds a press conference at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) after his visit on Wednesday in the site of Tuesday's bombing in Lamitan City, Basilan province. He was joined by Westmincom chief, Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega (Photo by: Dante B. Amento)

ZAMBOANGA CITY--The chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday’s bombing in Basilan province may have been the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), whose motive was extortion.

Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces chief-of-staff, made this assessment after he and other top military officials on Wednesday visited the blast site in Lamitan City, Basilan.

Galvez said the main motive is to threaten the local government units (LGUs) to give in to the Abu Sayyaf's demand, as the bandits are losing support in Basilan province.

Galvez said the ASG is demanding PHP50,000 in monthly protection money from each LGU, but he said the local chief executives have turned them down. He said the ASG would be receiving huge sum of money if their demand was granted since there are 11 mayors--two cities and nine municipalities--in Basilan province.

“They (LGUs) have agreed that no one will give to the Abu Sayyaf,” he added.

He said there could be more casualties had it not for the vigilance of the troops manning the checkpoint. |

Tuesday’s bomb explosion resulted in the death of 10 people, including the suspected bomb courier (not 11 as earlier reported), and seven others wounded. The fatalities included a soldier, four militiamen and four civilians, who were militia dependents.

Galvez said the most probable target of Tuesday’s bombing was the parade for the nutrition month culmination activity, which was participated in by more or less 4,000 children from the different schools in Lamitan City.

“They wanted to make a very strong statement and that is through the bombing (on Tuesday),” Galvez said.

He said improvised bombs were most likely fabricated by the Basilan-based ASG members.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, without revealing specific materials, said the bomb components used on Tuesday’s bombing “are readily available” locally.

Soldiers recover body of NPA rebel killed in Batangas clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Soldiers recover body of NPA rebel killed in Batangas clash

Troops with their K9 dogs (left photo) track down a decomposing body of a member of the New People's Army covered with dried coconut leaves on a grassy area (right photo), on Wednesday (Aug. 1), in San Juan, Batangas. The slain body was found two days after the clash in Barangay Bulsa, San Juan, on Monday. (Photo courtesy of IIB, 2DPAO)
CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Government troops on Wednesday recovered a decomposing body of a slain member of the New People's Army (NPA) following the clash in Sitio Coloconto, Barangay Bulsa in San Juan, Batangas.

Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd (Unifier) Brigade, said the troops discovered the body while conducting pursuit and tracking operations against the communist terrorist group.

Burgos said K9 dogs helped the 1st Infantry Battalion track down the abandoned body of the NPA rebel.

Military personnel with K9 dogs, he said, followed the blood stains from the encounter site for two days, while troops with canines traced the body, which is already in a stage of decomposition, covered with dried coconut leaves on a grassy area.

He said the NPA rebel's body bore two fatal gunshot wounds in the chest and was dragged by rebel combatants about a kilometer away from the clash site.

The dead NPA rebel was later identified as alias “Jepoy”, a member of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya Silangan (formerly known as Platoon Galaxy).

The troops transported the cadaver from the remote sitio of Sampaloc to the San Juan municipal police station for proper disposition while waiting for possible claimant.

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry "Jungle Fighter" Division, condemned the NPA’s "negligence" of their dead comrade.

“The NPAs do not respect the life of their comrades. They should provide proper medication to those that are wounded. But the most unacceptable thing is to leave a comrade behind and conceal the body by covering it with dried leaves,” he said.

“We should respect the dead, and one way of doing it is by giving proper burial which the NPA did not,” he added.

Parayno reiterated that government troops "do not rejoice in killing our fellow Filipino,” urging the communist terrorist group to “give up your arms and join us in local peace talks.”

During the military's tracking operations, Army Capt. Patrick Jay M. Retumban, chief of the 2ID public affairs office, said additional weapons were recovered, which include improvised explosive devices (IEDs), blasting cap, hand grenade, assorted ammunition, MacBook laptop, cellphones and other subversive documents.

Retumban said the government troops have already processed previously retrieved items such as M-16 rifle, backpacks, bandoleers and IEDs after Monday’s gun battle.

He said security personnel are sustaining the massive pursuit operations against the terrorists to locate other wounded NPA rebels as reported by concerned civilians as the military also expanded their checkpoints in the area.

11 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): 11 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Sulu

Eleven Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members have decided to surrender because of the mounting pressure from sustained military offensives against the group in Sulu, military officials said Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the ASG bandits surrendered around 7:10 a.m. Wednesday to the troops of the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion led by Lt. Col. Jessie Montoya.

Pabayo said the surrenderers were presented to Col. Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade in Barangay Samak, Talipao, Sulu.

Pabayo identified those who surrendered as Rodzhaimer Asiri Bagade alias Totoh; Aldimar Amil Alih alias Ding; Abraham Bantolan; Alben Samsorane Hajan alias El; Micheal Using Amil alias Mike; Winison Ayhal Saldi alias Billy; Muhaimen Tikusan Mahadulla alias Immen; Madjiri Ibnil Bagade alias Gib; Kinni Salih Adjal alias Kin; Me Abdulmasa Hajiri alias Me; and Radz Abdulmasa Hajiri alias Radz.

They also surrendered an M-16 Armalite rifle; six caliber .30 M1 Garand rifles; an M-79 grenade launcher; an Uzi machine pistol; and two .45 caliber pistols.

The Abu Sayyaf surrenderers were then brought to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital for physical and medical examination after the custodial debriefing at the headquarters of the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion.

“This is, by far, a breakthrough having so much ASG member surrenderers in just a short span of seven months. We continually encourage the remaining bandits to submit themselves as we will continue to put pressure until the last man standing will be taken down,” said Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command chief.

The surrender on Wednesday of the 11 ASG members have brought to 146 the number of ASG bandits who laid down their arms and returned to the fold of the law this year.

Detained wife of Maute leader moved to Taguig jail

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Detained wife of Maute leader moved to Taguig jail

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The local police transferred on Thursday the wife of a top leader of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group, who was arrested here last month, to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Insp. Willy Perez, deputy chief of the city police Station 7, said suspect Nafish Pundug was moved out of the detention facility following the approval of a petition for her transfer to the Taguig jail.

Perez said the suspect, along with escorts from the city police and the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan, boarded a commercial flight from the city airport to Manila on Thursday morning.

Perez said Nafisah's transfer to Taguig was necessary as she was considered a "high risk" detainee. He said the suspect was deemed an "influential personality" in the circle of the Maute, being the wife of its reported leader, Owaidah Abdulmajib Marohombsar alias Abu Dar.

Marohombsar is also the supposed new “emir” of the Islamic State of  Iraq and Syria in Southeast Asia.

"Considering the risks, she should be placed in a more secure detention facility," he said in a radio interview.

Perez said the suspect's transfer would also lessen the threat of a possible rescue by members of the terror group.

Nafisah was arrested by Army and police operatives on July 16 in an operation in Purok Maunlad, Barangay Apopong based on a standing warrant for violation of Republic Act 9516, or possession of explosive materials.

She was jailed at the Marawi City jail but managed to escape in 2016.

Her arrest came after a joint raid by various intelligence and law enforcement units in Zone 3, Block 4 in Barangay Fatima, which also led to the death of alleged Maute "bomb-maker" and number two man,  Najib Calimba Pundug, alias Najib Hussein.

Army to deploy more militiamen in NoCot to tackle NPA threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Army to deploy more militiamen in NoCot to tackle NPA threats

The Army will deploy more military auxiliary units in North Cotabato as the communist rebels continue to create “noise” in the province, an Army official said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, Army’s 10th Infantry Division commander, said three more companies of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) will be deployed in the towns of Magpet and Arakan, two upland towns in North Cotabato near the borders of Bukidnon and Davao, where the communist New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels remain active.

Clement said the rebels have been launching a flurry of attacks recently through roadside bombings, kidnappings, and extortion on private firms, as well as preying on civilian communities not sympathetic to their cause.

Clement told members of the North Cotabato’s Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) during a meeting in Kidapawan City on Wednesday that the militiamen will provide additional manpower to the military to contain continuing NPA threats in the two towns.

Clement, together with Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, attended the PPOC meeting chaired by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza at the provincial capitol in Kidapawan City.

The NPA's Guerilla Front 72 operates in the boundaries of North Cotabato, Bukidnon, and Davao, particularly in the hinterlands surrounding Mt. Apo, according to the military.

Speaking during the PPOC meeting, Clement also appealed to the local government executives to deliver government services to the farthest communities for the people to feel government service and presence.

He said lack of government presence and services to people in the mountains make residents vulnerable to recruitment by communist rebels.

To the business sector, Clement appealed to owners of multi-national firms in the province not to give in to NPA extortion.

The military official noted that many business owners prefer to give in to rebels’ revolutionary tax demands for fear of violations, terrorism, and burning of their plantation equipment.

“The cycle must stop,” Clement said, referring to traders who continue to pay revolutionary tax to the NPA.

“Inform authorities if you receive extortion letters, that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Mendoza convened the PPOC following Tuesday’s bombing incident in Lamitan, Basilan.

Troops, NPAs clash anew in Occidental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Troops, NPAs clash anew in Occidental Mindoro

Troops belonging to the 76th Infantry Battalion (76IB) clashed anew with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Ranao, Barangay Barahan in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro on Wednesday.

In a report reaching this camp on Thursday, Lt. Col. Mario Lito I. Retirva, Commanding Officer of 76IB, said army troopers engaged the NPA in combat operations following reports by concerned citizens that the terrorists were roaming around the sitio Tuesday night, extorting food stuffs from the Indigenous People (IP).

As the troops scoured the area, they encountered around 20 armed men, prompting them to close in for a firefight that lasted for about 15 minutes.

A soldier got wounded but is now in stable condition after medical evacuation.

However, an undetermined number of casualties were reported on the enemies' side based on the traces of bloodstains in the encounter site. The rebels fled bringing along their wounded comrades.

Retirva added the rebels who figured in this latest encounter were believed to be members of Platoon “FALCON”, Sub-Regional Military Area 4-B, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee, who were conducting their force recruitment among the Mangyan cultural community.

“They were also the same group encountered by our soldiers in Sta. Cruz (Mindoro) last June 29, 2018 where firearms, improvised explosive devices and subversive documents were recovered,” he added.

Meanwhile, Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) Commander Maj. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno said the troops would pursue the retreating enemies until they are totally destroyed.

“We will run them down and tear them. They are now tired, exhausted, and running out of ammunition since their previous clashed against the troops,” he said.

Parayno added that the 2ID would be relentless in conducting combat operations to guard the people of Mindoro, especially the IP communities against all NPA threats and abuses.

Government troops have sustained massive pursuit operations against the terrorists and intensified checkpoints in the area.