The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group killed 11 people in a terror assault on the southern city of Isabela in the Philippines. The brother of a leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group was among the four terrorists killed by security forces during the attack.
An estimated 25 Abu Sayyaf Group fighters dressed as soldiers and policemen planted at least five bombs at various locations, including a university stadium, a Catholic cathedral, the home of a judge, the Isabela city plaza, and near City Hall, The Inquirer reported.
The engagement began at 10:30 a.m. local time, after a van packed with explosives and parked near the stadium grandstand apparently detonated prematurely. Three Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed, including Bensar Indama, the brother of a known Abu Sayyaf commander who leads a kidnapping and murder gang.
Two surviving terrorists, supported by another team of Abu Sayyaf fighters waiting in ambush, opened fire on Philippine Marines and police as they responded to the first blast.
“Our troops were being fired at by snipers,” the chief of police of Basilan province said. “Some residents told us they saw at least eight armed men leaving the campus.” Two Abu Sayyaf fighters were captured during the clash. The surviving Abu Sayyaf fighters are reported to have split into three groups to evade the Philippine security forces.
The bombing at the Santa Isabel Cathedral occurred about 30 minutes later. A motorcycle laden with explosives detonated at the back of the cathedral, causing heavy damage to the structure and to nearby homes and businesses.
A third bomb, which had been placed outside the home of a judge, was safely detonated by a bomb disposal squad.
Five civilians, five Philippine Marines, a policeman, and four Abu Sayyaf Group fighters were reported killed in the ensuing clashes, and five Abu Sayyaf fighters were captured. Police and Philippine troops are currently pursuing the remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters.
Today’s attacks in Isabela are reminiscent of recent terror assaults by the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other al Qaeda-associated groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Yemen.
The most deadly such attack took place in Mumbai in November 2008, when a small but heavily armed Lashkar-e-Taiba assault team killed 165 Indians and foreign guests during a 60-hour siege of the city. The Taliban have recently carried out assaults on Pakistani police and intelligence stations in Lahore and Peshawar, and even succeeded in overrunning buildings inside the Pakistani Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Last week the Taliban conducted a failed assault on the US consulate in Peshawar.
The Philippine military has been pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group and its Islamist allies in the Southern Philippines. The military scored a big success in February 2010 when it killed Albader Parad, a top military commander of the Abu Sayyaf Group. The US put a $100,000 bounty out for Parad for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Philippine and international aid workers.
The Philippine government has long been battling an Islamist insurgency against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front in the southern part of the country. MILF and MNLF have allied with Abu Sayyaf; Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia; and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, a terror group comprised of Christian converts to Islam.
Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, and Rajah Solaiman Movement operatives are known to shelter with the two large Islamist insurgent groups as well as coordinate operations with them against the Philippine government.
US Special Forces are based in the Philippines to aid the government and military in their fight against the al Qaeda-linked groups and to assist in humanitarian efforts. The Philippine constitution prohibits US troops from engaging in combat operations in the country.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.