Abu Sayyaf Group leader HatibHajanSawadjaan is the new leader of the ISIS in the Philippines, the latest quarterly report of the US Department of Defense on the country showed.
The lead inspector general report to the US Congress from October to December 2018 said Sawadjaan was the acting emir of the ISIS in the Philippines.
“This quarter, USINDOPACOM (United States Indo-Pacific Command) reported that it had no update on the status of an ISIS-P emir, but it still believed HatibSawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-unit commander, was the acting emir,” the report read.
“USINDOPACOM reported that ISIS-Core did not confirm an emir and that
it was not clear what ties Sawadjaan had with ISIS-Core,” it added.
Sawadjaan is the alleged mastermind of the twin explosions at the cathedral in Jolo, Sulu. The attack killed at least 23 and wounded 90 others.
Five suspects in the bombing attack have already surrendered to police but 14 others, including Sawadjaan, remain at large.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed the US report.
“Yes, that’s correct. Sawadjaan is now the overall leader of ISIS-Mindanao,” Año said.
“Actually, he did not pledge allegiance with the ISIS. He remain[s] to be a traditional Abu Sayyaf but after the death of Hapilon and we’re finding a leader, Sawadjaan eventually became their leader, if I’m not mistaken third quarter last year,” he added.
Hapilon was killed as the government forces finished off the Maute-ISIS bandits that occupied Marawi City for several months in 2017.
The US defense department report said that the turn of events in Marawi siege “fractured the relationship” of the ISIS-Philippines and the ISIS-Core.
The force strength of terrorists that pledged allegiance to the ISIS was pegged at 300 to 550—significantly lower than the number of extremist fighters that joined the Marawi siege which peaked to over 1,000.
No substantial amount of funding from the ISIS-Core has also been monitored to be received by its supporters in the country.
“USINDOPACOM described ISIS-P as being in a ‘reorganization stage’ with the capability to carry out only small-scale attacks like improvised explosive devices and small-arms or ambush attacks,” the report said.
There were attempts for recruitment in the past months, according to the report, but the extent of recruiting efforts by the terrorists is still undetermined due to lack of sufficient information. —GMA News