MANILA – Security forces have killed Abu Sayyaf’s spokesman Muamar Askali, described as a “rising star” among Islamic extremist circles and linked to several high-profile kidnappings in lawless southern Philippines and around Malaysia’s Sabah state, dealing a major blow to the militant group.
Military chief General Eduardo Ano said in a phone interview on Wednesday (April 12) that Askali, also known as Abu Rami, was killed in clashes in Bohol, an island province in central Philippines popular with tourists.
He was among six militants killed on Tuesday in Inabanga town the Straits Times reported.
“This is a very big accomplishment and a big blow against the Abu Sayyaf… We can attribute a lot of atrocities to Abu Rami,” said General Ano.
Abu Rami was among the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who were high on the wanted list in Malaysia and Philippines
A bloodied photograph of dead Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Rami was released by Philippines security forces Wednesday, confirming that he was killed in the Bohol shootout.
The photograph also showed an IS flag pinned on his chest. Abu Rami is said to be the leader of the IS Group in Sulu
It is believed that he had joined Islamic State at the time of his death as he was working with Isnilon Hapilon the leader IS Philippines. Both had pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
Senior Superintendent Jonathan Cabal, head of the Central Visayas police office’s intelligence division, also reported that the militant spokesman was dead.
General Ano said Abu Ramii was being groomed as a future Abu Sayyaf chieftain, behind Radullah Sahiron, who has a US$1 million (S$1.4 million) bounty on his head. “He is trying to make a name of his own.”
Young, college-educated and fluent in English, Abu Rami had been described in various intelligence reports as a “rising star” and a “true believer” among Filipino militants.
A one-time criminology student, he was supposedly valued within the Abu Sayyaf for his family ties with several ranking policemen.
Abu Rami was said to be the chief planner of the Abu Sayyaf’s Tanum sub-group, behind high-profile kidnappings in parts of Mindanao and Malaysia’s Sabah state.
He had appeared in videos demanding ransom for foreigners taken by his group.
They were behind the kidnappings of two Canadians and a Norwegian at an upscale resort on Samal island in Davao province in September 2015, and a German off Malaysia’s Sabah state in November 2016.