At least five foreign terrorists are being hunted down by government forces in Sulu, a top military official said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, commander of 11th Infantry Division, said officials are keeping an eye on at least four Indonesians and one Egyptian, who have been helping the Abu Sayyaf carry out attacks in recent months.
He said the Egyptian, who is about 12 to 15 years old, is the reported son of Abdurahmil, one of three suicide bombers killed in a shootout in Indanan town on Nov. 5.
Abdurahmil’s stepson, Yusoph, was also killed during the shootout, along with a local bandit.
In September, Abdurahmil’s Filipina wife attacked a military detachment on Kilometer 3 in Indanan by blowing herself up using a suicide vest packed with an improvised explosive device.
Vinluan said the four Indonesians were also ISIS fighters, who once tried to enter Syria but were held by authorities in Turkey and deported back to Indonesia.
“Bumalik sila sa Indonesia at nag-training doon, nalaman na lang namin na andito na sila. ISIS din ang mga iyan, fighters talaga,” the Joint Task Force Sulu commander said.
(They went back to Indonesia to train there and we found out they were already here. They are ISIS fighters.)
He said the foreigners also tried to establish themselves in Malaysia, but because of tighter security opted to settle in Sulu, a bastion considered by Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The presence of foreign terrorists in Sulu has helped local bandits enhance their bomb-making skills.
The most notable of these bandits is Mundi Sawadjaan, nephew of Abu Sayyaf commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who has been declared as the new emir of ISIS in the country.
Vinluan said bombs recovered from the three slain suicide bombers and from a local bandit were reportedly crafted by Mundi.
“Ang expert sa paggawa ng bomba ay 'yung si Mundi Sawadjaan, pamangkin ni Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, siya ang gumagawa lahat ng IED dito, pero malapit-lapit na ring makuha 'yun,” Vinluan said.
(The expert in bomb making is Mundi Sawadjaan, nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan. He was the one who made all the IEDs here but we will soon catch him.)
The spate of suicide bombings in Sulu this year could be linked to Hatib Hajan’s goal of establishing an ISIS caliphate in the province.
Though he has been highly considered to be the next leader of ISIS in the country, he has yet to fulfill the necessary requirements to be declared as one.
“Bago ka maging full time na lider talaga ng ISIS, dapat magkaroon ka ng isang area talaga na considered na controlled mo,” Vinluan said.
(Before you get to be a full-time ISIS leader, one of the requirements is to have an area that is under your control.)
Sawadjaan was believed to be the mastermind behind the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombing on Jan. 27, which left at least 23 dead and more than a hundred injured.