MANILA - An Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, who authorities say is a cousin of the mastermind of the Aug. 24, 2020 explosions in Jolo, was killed by government forces in Patikul, Sulu during their continuing operations Monday against the terror group.
According to Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo, public information officer of Joint Task Force Sulu, elements of the Philippine Army's 45th Infantry Battalion encountered the group of ASG leaders Radullan Sahiron and Mundi Sawadjaan at around 9 a.m.
Sawadjaan, who remains at large, has been identified by officials as the main suspect behind last month's twin blasts in Jolo town proper that killed more than two dozens and injured over 70 others, including military and police personnel.
Mateo said the government troops overran a temporary ASG lair in Patikul's Barangay Maligay after being tipped off by a local resident, and the armed engagement with some 40 militants resulted in the death of Arsibar Sawadjaan.
The slain suspected terrorist is said to be a bomb maker, said Mateo.
Meanwhile, an "assistant cohort" of Mundi Sawadjaan fell into the hands of authorities in Zamboanga City on Sunday.
Hashim Saripada was arrested by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Group, Special Action Force, Police Regional Office 9 and the military, said PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan.
"Well, Saripada is the assistant cohort of Mundi Sawadjaan. This will be a very big blow on him (Mundi) because nawalan siya ng isang pagkakatiwalaan. And this one is actually his assistant," Cascolan said.
"So karamihan ng kaniyang mga activities ngayon, hindi na matutuloy because of that. And he knows na mino-monitor na siya ng lahat ng intelligence at anti-terrorism units," he added.
Saripada has a standing arrest warrant issued by Basilan Judge Danilo Bucoy, for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.
Authorities say Saripada was involved in the suicide bombing in July 2018 near a military detachment in Basilan's Lamitan City, as well as in the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral in January last year. Both incidents left many soldiers and civilians killed and injured.
At the time of his arrest, Saripada was allegedly in possession of one gallon of ANFO (explosive), 9 pieces blasting caps, 5 meters of detonating cord, one fragmentation grenade, and one backpack.
-- with a report from Raffy Santos, ABS-CBN News