MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine soldiers have killed a militant who had helped a local group linked to Islamic State to stage suicide bombings in the southern province of Sulu, the military said on Saturday.
The body of Talha Jumsah, also known as Abu Talha, was recovered after a clash with Filipino troops on Friday morning in the town of Patikul, military officials said.
They said Abu Talha had been trained in bomb-making by Islamic State and had instructed the Islamist militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in setting up suicide attacks. He had also served as “finance conduit and liaison” between foreign and local jihadists.
“The death of Abu Talha will surely cause demoralisation in the ASG ranks in Sulu,” said Army Brigadier General Antonio Nafarrete.
Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr, the commander of military forces in Sulu, urged remaining ASG members to “surrender and live a normal life instead of being hunted down as fleeing criminals”.
Early this month, the army said soldiers had foiled what they called an attempted suicide bombing in an urban area in Jolo municipality in Sulu, the latest in a series of attacks blamed on Abu Sayyaf.
There have been four suicide bombings in Sulu, Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold, in the past 16 months, despite intensified army operations and a vow by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to wipe the group out.
The twin bombing of a church in January killed 21 people, a van bomb at a checkpoint in July 2018 killed 11, a suicide attack by two youths killed eight in June, and in September a woman carrying a bomb near an army detachment detonated it prematurely.
The attackers included Indonesians, a Moroccan and Filipinos.
(Writing by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Kevin Liffey)