Eight militants were killed in air, artillery, and ground operations in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines on Saturday, February 2. However, a Singaporean terrorist who goes by the name Muawiyah was not among the slain and managed to elude capture by Philippine forces.
The commander of the Philippines’ 6th Infantry Division, Major-General Cirilito Sobejana, announced this to members of the media on Sunday, February 3.
Military forces commenced operations early Saturday morning on a hideout of Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired terrorists Sitio Tatak, Barangay Tugal, in the municipality of Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao.
Sobejana announced that there were a number of “high-value targets” inside the hideout, including Muawiyah, in what seemed to be the base camp of an armed group from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Philippine armed forces dropped a 226kg bomb into the hideout. Aside from Muawiyah, there were also terrorists from Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as two “Middle Eastern-looking” men in the camp.
Sobejana said that the Philippine armed forces are still in pursuit of Muawiyah, who is the primary suspect in 2009 kidnapping of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sulu, an island in the southernmost tip of the Philippines.
Muawiyah, along with Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who is Malaysian, has been described as “the most important international terrorists currently operating in South-east Asia”, according to the Straits Times (ST).
In the 1990s, the two men fled to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. They have reportedly trained other foreign militants who have also escaped to Mindanao.
Marwan’s death was confirmed by authorities in a 2015 raid in Mindanao. Muawiyah was reported dead in 2012 and again in 2016, but his death has gone unverified both times.