UPDATE: Leader of armed group sympathetic to ISIS killed in Sarangani clash

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 5 Jan) – Joint government operatives killed a notorious leader of an armed group sympathetic to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and arrested three of its alleged members, one of them a woman, in an operation early Thursday in Kiamba town in Sarangani Province.

Sr. Supt. Leonardo Suan, Police Regional Office-12’s deputy regional director for operations, said fugitive suspect Mohammad Jaafar Sabewang Maguid alias “Tokboy” was killed in an encounter past midnight at the Angel Beach Resort in Barangay Kitagas, Kiamba.

Maguid was the founder and leader of the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), which had been blamed over a string of terror attacks in Sarangani and neighboring areas these past years.

Suan identified the arrested suspects as Matahata Dialawe Arboleda, Ismael Sahak alias “Mael,” and Morhaban Veloso alias “Bugoy.”

Recovered from the clash site were two Bushmaster M-16 Armalite rifles, two hand grenades, 24 magazines of M-16 Armalite ammunition, two bullet bandoliers and a brown envelope containing various documents of the group.

In a press conference, Sr. Supt. Joseph Semillano, Sarangani police director, said their intelligence operatives initially received information on Wednesday night that Maguid was sighted at the Angel Beach Resort.

He said they immediately informed the other units about the report and embarked on an operation.

The operation involved elements from the PRO-12’s Regional Public Safety Battalion and Regional Intelligence Unit, Sarangani Provincial Police Office, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

“At 10 minutes after midnight, we were able to neutralize Tokboy,” Semillano said.

Engr. Arnulfo Flores, the resort’s owner, told radio station Bombo Radyo that Maguid’s group arrived in the area late Wednesday night aboard a red Toyota Wigo sedan with temporary license plate 12190176.

Citing accounts from resort personnel, he said operatives were able to arrest Maguid’s three cohorts upon entering the area.

He said Maguid reportedly tried to escape from the area but was cornered near the boundary of a neighboring beach property.

Semillano said the suspect initially attempted to draw an Armalite rifle before fleeing.

As Maguid was running towards a dark portion of the beach, operatives fired at him, Semillano said. Maguid sustained three gunshot wounds on his body.

Suan said they are monitoring the movements of the remaining members of the AKP.

“We’re closely monitoring if a new leader of the group will emerge,” he said in a press conference at the PRO-12 headquarters in Barangay Tambler here.

Col. Tyne Banas, commanding officer of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said the killing of Maguid is a major blow to his group.

He said it mainly reduced the capability of the group, which has an estimated 10 to 15 members, as it lost Maguid’s “network and connections.”

“It’s possible that the group will just disband,” Banas said.

He said their operations have been continuing against the remaining members of the AKP, which he maintained as a “mere ISIS sympathizer” but not recognized by the ISIS.

Maguid, who bolted from the Sarangani provincial jail in 2010, is facing at least 15 arrest warrants issued by various local courts since 2008.

He is facing multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, frustrated murder, robbery with violence, robbery with homicide, destructive arson and arson, filed at the Regional Trial Court Branches 11 and 38 in Alabel, Sarangani.

Authorities tagged Maguid’s group as behind the planting of an improvised explosive in December at a Christmas display in front of the Kiamba municipal hall.

Joint operatives seized suspected bomb-making materials at his house in Barangay Daliao in Maasim town in October last year.

In August, SAF operatives killed three alleged members of the AKP in an operation in upper Sitio Lebe in Barangay Daliao.

Recovered at the site were various high-powered firearms and a black flag bearing an ISIS logo. (MindaNews)