3 ASG men slain in Sulu, Basilan clashes

Published April 24, 2021, 1:41 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Three suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants, including the alleged brother of notorious ASG sub-leader and bomb expert Mudzrimar “Mundi” Sawadjaan, were killed Friday, April 23, in a series of operations in Sulu and Basilan, the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., WestMinCom commander, identified the slain ASG men as Mujafal “Jhapz” Sawadjaan, who was said to be the eldest brother of Mundi, Muktihar Taha alias “Mukti;” and Poloy Hallang alias “Commander Heck.”

Troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu were conducting a focused military operation at the boundary of barangays Taung, Taglibi, and Panglayahan in Patikul town when they encountered three suspected ASG militants under the command of Mundi Sawadjaan around 3:20 p.m.

A five-minute gun battle ensued which resulted in the killing of Mujafal and Taha. Meanwhile, another unidentified cohort managed to escape. The bodies of Mujafal and Taha were recovered by the military.

“Mujafal was in the ASG watchlist as of the yearend 2020. He is the brother of Mundi. On the other hand, Mukti was not on the watchlist but he was known to be an active follower of Mundi,” Vinluan said.

Prior to this, troops of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion were running after a suspicious man who allegedly left behind an improvised explosive device (IED) component during an earlier operation in the same areas around 9:30 a.m., said Major Gen. William Gonzales, JTF Sulu commander.

He said pursuit operations resulted in a brief clash but the result of the operation was not immediately clear.

“We have received initial reports indicating that Mundi’s youngest brother, Al-al Sawadjaan, was also neutralized during the encounters but it is yet to be verified. All our forces are on high alert as we continue to hunt for Mundi Sawadjaan,” Gonzales said.

“With the death of most of his followers, it is possible that Mundi is evading our forces all by himself,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hallang was shot dead by combined personnel of the 4th Special Forces Battalion and Philippine National Police (PNP) led by the Special Action Force (SAF), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and 2nd Basilan Province Mobile Force Company in Barangay Baungis, Lantawan, Basilan.

Vinluan said the troops were serving as augmentation forces to capture Hallang, who was the subject of a warrant of arrest for murder, when he allegedly resisted arrest.

After a brief firefight, Vinluan said Hallang was killed by the troops while two PNP-SAF troopers were wounded. His body was recovered by the troops and turned over to police for proper disposition.

Hallang was included in the military’s ASG wathclist as of end of 2020, according to Vinluan.

Accordingly, Hallang was responsible for the killing of one Noning Jainal, of Lantawan town. He was also linked to an armed encounter with the 14th Special Forces Company in Lantawan in 2014 which resulted in the death of Cpt. Mark Zember Gamboa.