Philippine government forces killed two suspected Abu Sayyaf Group militants in separate incidents in the southern Sulu Islands on Friday, including a unit sub-leader and one linked to kidnappings of Europeans and an Indonesian several years ago, military officials said.
The killings brought to 17 the number of suspected members of Islamic State-linked ASG slain in a series of raids and gunbattles in the southern Philippines during the month of November. They include seven suspects who were killed by government forces during a chase at sea off the Sulu chain on Nov. 3.
On Friday, a unit from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 was attacked at dawn by an Abu Sayyaf unit led by Hatib Munap Binda near Panamao town in Sulu province, the military said in an incident report.
A “30-minute firefight ensued resulting in the death of Binda,” and the wounding of several others, said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, the military chief in the southern Philippines.
“The troops penetrated the encounter site and recovered the body of Abu Sayyaf group sub-leader Binda,” Vinluan said, adding that the enemy fighters were forced to retreat, taking their wounded comrades with them.
He said an M16 and an M14 assault rifles were recovered.
About an hour later, another team of marines clashed with an Abu Sayyaf faction elsewhere in the region, in a gunbattle that killed a suspected militant identified as Bensio Barahama.
Binda was identified as an associate of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya who led a spate of kidnap-for-ransom activities in the southern Philippines along the borders with Malaysia and Indonesia, according to military intelligence records.
Misaya was killed in a clash in 2017. Apart from kidnappings, he was also blamed for a bomb attack that killed an American soldier in 2002.
Barahama meanwhile was involved in the kidnapping of two bird watchers, Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerre and Dutch national Ewold Horn, the military said.
They were abducted on February 2012 along with a Filipino guide who was able to escape hours later near the island of Tawi-Tawi. Vinciguerre escaped from ASG captivity two years later but Horn was killed in May 2019 as he tried to flee in the middle of a clash between his captors and troops.
Vinluan said Barahama had led efforts to kidnap 10 Filipinos who were held captive at different times and subsequently freed after ransom payments.
On Thursday night, a third Abu Sayyaf suspect was captured on nearby Basilan Island, considered the birth place of the Abu Sayyaf in the mid-1990s.
The suspect was identified as Ranger Siason (alias Abu Ranger), said Lt. Col. Homer Dumalag, chief of the Isabela City Police Office on Basilan. In arresting Siason, he said police and regional intelligence operatives recovered ammunition and explosives, along with a black Islamic State flag.