AFP confirms death of mastermind behind MSU bombing

Philippine Army troops inspect the war material recovered at the site of the encounter against the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group on January 25 to 26, 2024 in Lanao del Sur. (Photo by Armed Forces of the Philippines)


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed on Monday, Feb. 12, the death of an "amir" or commander of the Islamic militant group Daulah Islamiyah (DI)-Maute Group who allegedly masterminded the fatal bomb attack at the Mindanao State University (MSU) two months ago.

AFP Chief, General Romeo Brawner Jr. said that one of the nine Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) militants who got killed during a series of counter-terrorism operations in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur from Jan. 25 to 26 was positively identified as Khadafi Mimbesa alias "Engineer," the pinpointed brains behind the Dec. 3, 2023 bombing at MSU.

Mimbesa's death was confirmed after alias "Khatab," a high-value target and member of the DI-Maute Group, surrendered to the Philippine Army's 2nd Mechanized Brigade on Sunday, Feb. 11.

According to the AFP, Khatab issued a sworn statement which corroborated the initial information by the military on the demise of Mimbesa.

In his message, Brawner lauded the troops for successfully pursuing those responsible in the MSU bombing as he called on the remnants of the group to surrender.

"Our troops will be relentless in the pursuit of those who will seek to disturb the peace. Take this as an invitation and a call to surrender now and avoid the same fate as your dead comrades," he said.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines will always be a catalyst for peace and assures the public of the military's unwavering commitment to safeguarding peace and security in Mindanao and across the country," he added.

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pins a Military Merit Medal to a combat-wounded soldier during his visit at the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Feb. 12, 2024 while Philippine Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido observes. (Photo by Philippine Army)

Meanwhile, four Philippine Army soldiers who got wounded during pursuit operations against Mimbesa and his group were recognized by no less than the Commander-in-Chief, President Marcos Jr. at the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Marcos pinned the Gold Cross medal to Staff Sgt. Jhonny Batucan and Private First Class Mark John Culaway and the Military Merit Medal with Bronze Spearhead Device to Private First Class Vincent Salvani and Private First Class Jheremy Addatu, all of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion.

Batucan strategically aimed and fired his M203 grenade launcher to the enemy position during one of the encounters and gave first aid to Salvani while Culayaw sustained a gunshot wound to the chest after facing the enemies head on to ensure the safety of their maneuvering team.

Salvani and Addatu, on the other hand, risked their lives to take critical positions and prevent enemies from escaping.

The President was accompanied by Department of National Defense (DND) Sec. Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido.

The Gold Cross Medal is the AFP's fourth highest military award given to personnel in recognition of their gallantry in action. Meanwhile, the Military Merit Medal is awarded for the heroic achievement or meritorious service during, or in support of military action against an enemy.

It can be recalled that four people were killed and 72 others were injured when a bomb attack rocked the Dimaporo Gymnasium inside the MSU during an Advent mass attended by Christian worshippers on Dec. 3, 2023. It was regarded by the military as the most violent attack in Marawi since the Islamic City was besieged by the Maute Group in 2017.

In response to the incident, the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division conducted a series of counter-terrorism operations  in Piagapo a month later which resulted in the death of nine DI-Maute Group militants.

The AFP earlier identified eight of the nine slain DI-Maute Group members as Saumay Saiden alias "Ustadz Omar/ Abu Omar/ and Saumay;" Salman alias "Mikdad/Miqdad;" Abdul Hadi alias "Hodi Imam/Abday'n;" Lacson Timbang alias "Abdullah;" King Fahad Dalig Untie alias "Muhajeer/ Abu Khalid;" Asnawi Mael alias "Hamza;" alias "Mauwiyah;" and alias "Mohaimen".