MANILA - An Islamic State-trained bomb expert known to have been liaising between the global terror network and the Abu Sayyaf group was killed Friday in a military operation in Sulu, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Saturday.
Talha Jumsah aka “Abu Talha” was killed after an armed confrontation triggered by a civilian tip in Patikul town around 7:15 a.m., Friday, the military said in a statement.
His body was recovered Saturday morning around 800 meters away from the site of the gunfight.
The military said Abu Talha was a "high-value target" as he was an ISIS-trained expert on improvised explosive devices (IEDs) . He has been training Abu Sayyaf members in making bombs, including IEDs used in deadly bombings in Sulu.
The military said he also "served as the finance conduit and liaison between foreign and local terrorist communication lines." His nationality was not disclosed.
"The death of Abu Talha will surely cause demoralization in the Abu Sayyaf ranks in Sulu," Brig. Gen. Antonio Nafarrete, 1101st Brigade Commander, said.
He credited the local community for reporting "the presence of the armed terrorists," saying they "volunteered to serve as guides during the conduct of combat operations."
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, warned the Abu Sayyaf group of further military operations as he commended units behind Friday's operation.
“I am reiterating my appeal to them to surrender and live a normal life instead of being hunted down as fleeing criminals and disgrace to the peace-loving Tausug Community. One by one, we will hunt you down,” Vinluan said.
The military has been pursuing relentless offensives behind the bandit group, which is known to have sworn allegiance to ISIS.
The Abu Sayyaf is behind criminal and terror activities mostly in the restive south, including the abduction of both local residents and foreign nationals and deadly bombings.