PRESENCE of foreign-trained terrorists in some parts of the Southern Philippines who have allied themselves with the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless elements in the region remains a major headache of the government prompting security officials to call for an all-out public support in identifying and arresting these targets and their supporters.
The PNP headed by its Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, has been continuously calling on the citizenry to maintain its vigilance and to immediately report the presence of suspicious persons, activities and unattended packages and bags in public places to the nearest police station. Tips provided by concerned citizens in the past particularly in Metro Manila and Mindanao have resulted in the foiling of bomb plots and other criminal activities.
Apart from Malaysian Dr. Azahari Husin who was known to be the first foreign terrorist to influence Southern Philippines-based terror groups and Indonesian Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, another foreign terrorist who gained notoriety in the country is Zulkifli Bin Hir alias ‘Marwan,’ also a Malaysian who became the leader of the JI cell in Southeast Asia,
All three are now dead, slain in shootouts with policemen who acted on tips from a vigilant citizenry or from informants who were lured by huge reward money offered for the capture ‘dead or alive’ of the notorious terrorists.
Husin was killed in a shootout with Indonesian policemen on November 9, 2005 while Al-Ghozi was gunned down by Philippine National Police agents in a gunbattle in Pigkawayan, Cotabato on October 12, 2003.
On the other hand, Marwan was the main target of a top secret PNP Special Action Force operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015 which led in the killing of the famous SAF 44.
Officials had discovered that while hiding in former sanctuaries of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Central Mindanao, the most wanted terrorist was said to have developed an alliance with Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, one of the leaders of the infamous Marawi City siege who was killed by security forces on October 16, 2017.
Following the death of Hapilon, two men: Furuji Indama and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan took over as the Abu Sayyaf chiefs respectively in Basilan and Sulu, and were monitored to have masterminded several deadly ‘suicide bombing’ missions in Mindanao.
Suicide bombings have become a phenomenon nowadays and is believed to be the result of an increasing radicalization.
Records showed on May 14, 2018, a couple led their four children on a suicide mission in Surabaya, Indonesia where they attacked three churches killing all six of them and 12 other innocent victims.
In Mindanao, a ‘suicide bombing’ at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu last January 27 killed 24 and wounded 94 others. Terror groups like the BIFF, Ansarul Khilafa Philippines and Daulah Islamiyah have also been blamed for majority of IED attacks in Central Mindanao this year which killed six and wounded 73 others.
The terrorists have used radio-controlled IEDs or those with time-delay igniters to carry out the attacks.
In Western Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf is known to have used vehicle and person-borne IEDs to hit targets, using command wire and time-delay IEDs.
From October 2018 to date, a total of 165 IED-related incidents have been monitored in Mindanao, 110 of which are IED recoveries while 55 are actual IED bombings with command wire as the main mode of initiation.
According to Philippine Bomb Data Center head, Lieutenant Colonel Hansel M. Marantan, the threats posed by IEDs will continue to evolve, necessitating much drastic action of the government to arrest the threat with the help of the public.
Marantan said that the international community and the government in particular must be ready to address five emerging threats from the Islamic State: the so-called ‘lone wolf,’ the presence or aerial drone IEDs, sea-drone IEDs, animal-borne IEDs and CBRNE attacks.