Philippine police kill an Abu Sayyaf militant implicated in 15 beheadings and other atrocities

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine forces killed an Abu Sayyaf militant, who had been implicated in past beheadings, including of 10 Filipino marines and two kidnapped Vietnamese, in a clash in the south, police officials said Friday.

Philippine police, backed by military intelligence agents, killed Nawapi Abdulsaid in a brief gunbattle Wednesday night in the remote coastal town of Hadji Mohammad Ajul on Basilan island after weeks of surveillance, security officials said.

Abu Sayyaf is a small but violent armed Muslim group, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for ransom kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and other bloody attacks.

It has been considerably weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting, but remains a security threat particularly in the southern Philippines, home to minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

Abdulsaid, who used the nom de guerre Khatan, was one of several Abu Sayyaf militants who aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.

A confidential police report said that Abdulsaid had been implicated in at least 15 beheadings in Basilan, including of 10 Philippine marines in Al-Barka town in 2007 and two of six kidnapped Vietnamese sailors near Sumisip town in 2016. The Vietnamese were seized from a passing cargo ship.

He was also involved in attacks against government forces in 2022 and a bombing in November that killed two pro-government militiamen and wounded two others in Basilan, the report said.

Abdulsaid was placed under surveillance in February, but police forces couldn't immediately move to make a arrest because of the “hostile nature” of the area where he was eventually gunned down, according to the report.

On Monday, Philippine troops killed the leader of another Muslim rebel group and 11 of his men blamed for past bombings and extortion in a separate clash in a marshy hinterland in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in southern Maguindanao del Sur province, the military said.

Seven soldiers were wounded in the clash with the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are among a few small armed groups still struggling to wage a separatist uprising in the southern Philippines.

The largest armed separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a 2014 peace pact with the government that eased decades of sporadic fighting.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel commanders became parliamentarians and administrators of a five-province Muslim autonomous region in a transition arrangement after signing the peace deal. They are preparing for a regular election scheduled for next year.