MANILA, Philippines - A military official on Monday downplayed reports that Khair Mundus, an Islamic extremist who has ties with foreign donors, has become the leader of a key faction of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
“We are not daunted whoever is the new (leader of the Abu Sayyaf). The AFP [Armed forces of the Phililppines is not alarmed. Leaders just come and go. We are still verifying it,” said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos.
Told that Mundus appears to be espousing Islamic extremism, Burgos said: “We are not afraid but we are trying to consider all factors.”
Initial reports said Mundus is now the leader of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and that Puruji Indama is his deputy. It described Mundus as having a stronger ideological bent and has begun giving Islamic religious training to Abu Sayyaf fighers.
Mundus, who is on the US government list of wanted terrorists with a reward of $500,000, has funneled funds from abroad to the late Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani from 2001 to 2003. Mundus escaped from a police detention facility in 2007.
Burgos did not discount possibility that more funds will be funneled to the Abu Sayyaf with Mundus playing a bigger role in the Abu Sayyaf.
“We will try to push the momentum (in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf), maintain the momentum because we have inflicted blows on them. Lately, we’ve neutralized some of their leaders in encounters,” he said.
Burgos was referring to the death of Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Albader Parad and Abdulhan Jumdail and 4 other Abu Sayyaf members in Maimbung, Sulu last month. Parad has led a number of high-profile kidnappings in Sulu.