See More on Facebook

Current affairs

Eight militants killed in Philippine assault on Mindanao

The armed forces were targeting a Singaporean born protest leader.


Written by

Updated: February 3, 2019

Philippines security forces have killed at least eight militants in an assault on a jungle lair in the volatile south where a Singaporean terrorist was believed to be hiding.

Major-General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, told reporters that the Singaporean, Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman alias Muawiyah, was among the “high-value targets” inside the camp on war-torn Mindanao island.

But Muawiyah apparently survived and managed to flee.

A 226kg bomb was dropped on the main fortification inside the camp, in Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao province, where Muawiyah and six other foreign terrorists – two Malaysians, two Indonesians and two “Middle Eastern-looking” men – were believed to have been housed, Maj-Gen Sobejana said.

Referring to Muawiyah, he said: “We’re still pursuing them, and checking if he was among those hit by the bomb.”

He said the bodies of eight militants were recovered after the camp was seized.

The BIFF is a splinter group of the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main secessionist group that has signed a peace pact with the government.

The BIFF has pursued a more hardline approach, pledging allegiance to the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Muawiyah is the chief suspect in the kidnapping of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sulu province, in war-torn Mindanao island, in 2009.

He fled to Mindanao in the 1990s with Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and the two men at one time were described as “the most important international terrorists currently operating in South-east Asia”.

Both were said to be skilled at making bombs, and had recruited and trained hundreds of militants from abroad who fled to safe havens in war-torn Mindanao island.

The Malaysian, Marwan, was killed in a raid in 2015 by police special forces on his hideout in Mamasapano town, also in Maguindanao. Tests done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed his death.

Muawiyah, on the other hand, was first reported killed in an air strike in Jolo province in 2012. This was never verified.

He was again said to have died in military offensives across Maguindanao in 2016. Again, there was no confirmation.

Another Singaporean militant, named Abu Hud Zain, was reported to have been killed in clashes in Mamasapano late on Dec 22.

His death and those of four other militants reportedly led to the New Year’s Eve bombing of a shopping mall in Cotabato city on Dec 31.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said the military is keeping a tab on at least 44 terrorists from abroad who have sought refuge in Mindanao.  Two of them are Singaporeans, he said. Intelligence officials, however, have yet to provide positive identification of any of them.

Maj-Gen Sobejana said the Maguindanao camp, which was fortified with about two dozen bunkers and foxholes, was run by the Muhajireen Wal-Ansar, also known as the Maguindanao Daulah Islamiyah, a faction of the BIFF under the firebrand preacher Esmael Abdulmalik, also known as Abu Turaife.

Turaife himself was said to be in the camp.

Intelligence officials said the Turaife group has been providing shelter to fighters across South-east Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Meanwhile, eight soldiers and three militants were killed on Saturday (Feb 2) during a firefight in Patikul town, in Sulu province off Mindanao.

The clash between a Rangers unit and more than 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters broke out as security forces pursued those behind an attack on a Roman Catholic cathedral in Sulu on Jan 27 that left 22 dead and over 100 injured.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Current affairs

SAARC turns 35 but has very little to show for its age

The regional bloc of seven South Asian countries and Afghanistan has largely been held hostage to the rivalry between India and Pakistan, say analysts. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation might have turned 35 but its three-and-a-half decades of existence has largely failed to advance its own central tenet—regional cooperation. As SAARC marked its 35th anniversary with a flurry of congratulatory messages from heads of government, expressing their commitment to regional cooperation, many analysts and diplomats wonder if these promises will ever translate into action. The regional association has failed to hold its 19th summit, ever since 2016 when India sud


By The Kathmandu Post
December 9, 2019

Current affairs

Why Hong Kong residents turned out in record numbers to vote

Many say events of past 5 months galvanised their desire to exercise their democratic right. Amid mild autumn weather and under a clear blue sky in Lek Yuen, the oldest public housing estate in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin, a snaking queue formed outside the community hall shortly after dawn yesterday. It was the constituency’s polling station of the day, and hundreds were in the line before the opening time of 7.30am to vote for their district councillor, one of the lowest rungs of Hong Kong’s elected offices. The scene was repeated across the territory’s 18 districts, where nearly three million people showed up to vote in elections that are usually a quiet affair, with chosen officials confined to dealing with noise complaints and local infrastructure improvement projects. The officials, however, also represent 117 of the 1,200-strong Election Committee that chooses the city̵


By The Straits Times
November 25, 2019

Current affairs

Nearly 1,000 China nationals nabbed in Malaysia

They are believed to be online scam workers. Malaysian authorities have nabbed nearly 1,000 China nationals who were believed to be working in the country with an online scam syndicate, local media reported. The bust on Wednesday (Nov 20) by the Immigration Department in Cyberjaya was the biggest conducted this year, Bernama news agency said. On its Facebook, department said the raid was conducted at the syndicate’s headquarters in Cyberjaya. Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the syndicate was operating from a six-storey building in Cyberjaya, a high-technology zone located about an hour south of Kuala Lumpur. The raid was the end result of a month’s worth of surveillance, following complaints from the public. The office was well secured, with guards stationed at each floor and rooms only being accessible with access cards, The Star reported.


By The Straits Times
November 22, 2019

Current affairs

MH17 probe releases new phone calls linking suspects to top Russians

With contributions by AFP. A Dutch-led probe into the shooting-down of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 released new intercepted phone calls on Thursday (Nov 14) between high-ranking Russian officials and suspects facing trial over the crash. Investigators said they were making a “new witness appeal” based on “recorded telephone calls between the leaders of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist group) and high-ranking Russian officials.” “Ties between Russian officials and DPR leaders appear to have been much closer” than originally believed, Mr Andy Kraag, the head of Dutch police’s Criminal Investigations Division, said in a video statement. Investigators said in June that they were going to put three Rus


By Cod Satrusayang
November 15, 2019

Current affairs

Five years later, prosecutorial probe kicks off into Sewol ferry sinking

For some families, it is too little, too late. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on Monday launched a special investigation unit to probe allegations surrounding the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014. During a press briefing at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, the unit said it is “committed to making its probe so thorough that it will be the last one to be conducted into the Sewol sinking.” The unit will take on investigations conducted by a provisional state commission formed in January 2015 with a fact-finding mission on the Sewol case. This is the prosecution’s first organized effort concerning the disaster from over five years ago. On April 16, 2014, the 6,825-ton ferry with a passenger capacity of 921 sank off the coast of South Jeolla Province en route to Jeju Island, killing over 300 people, mostly children. The 18-member prosecution unit is headed by


By The Korea Herald
November 12, 2019

Current affairs

Ayodhya verdict is silent on why Muslims must prove exclusive possession of site

The Indian court has deprived Muslims of the disputed plot because they couldn’t show exclusive possession before 1857. On page 215 of the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid verdict, delivered by a five-judge bench on Saturday, the Supreme Court makes a crucial statement of logic: “It is true that in matters of faith and belief, the absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence.” But in its final findings, the court contradicted this same logic. The crux of the judgment that India has awaited since 1949 is that Muslims failed to show unimpeded possession of the disputed site in Ayodhya between 1528, when the mosque was supposedly built by Mughal emperor Babur, and 1857, when, after a clash between Muslims and Hindus, a railing was erected between the inner and outer courtyards at the disputed site. The inner courtyard is where the mosque demolished by Hindutva mobs in 1992 stood. The outer courtyard has se


By Dawn
November 12, 2019