‘Dead’ top Filipino militant, alive and well; deemed a threat by military

By , on June 23, 2014

Abdul Usman Basit "wanted" poster circulated in 2009-2010. (Photo: news.nfo.ph)
Abdul Usman Basit “wanted” poster circulated in 2009-2010. (Photo: news.nfo.ph)

He was believed dead, as reported by members of the Philippine media in 2010. But it turns out that this Filipino militant bomb-making expert is alive and well, and considered a threat by the military.

Expert bomb maker, Abdel Basit Usman, recently escaped a military raid of a Muslim guerrilla camp in the Philippines, proving wrong earlier reports that he had been killed in 2010 in a US drone attack that targeted a Pakistani Taliban leader in a remote area of northern Pakistan, the military said Saturday.

Usman, who is on the US government’s list of most-wanted terrorists, is believed by Philippine and US authorities to have links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf group of Southeast Asian militants. In 2009, the US State Department offered an $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

According to southern Philippines military spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso, the militant Muslim activist was seen in the camp of another armed Muslim group on the island of Mindanao.

“We launched a raid two weeks ago. There was a firefight and we recovered an arms cache, but he was able to get away. He’s the one training the BIFF members who are conducting bombings in central Mindanao,” Hermoso told reporters from the Associated Foreign Press (AFP).

The BIFF or Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is an offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the biggest Muslim guerilla group behind the armed rebellion that, for decades, has gripped the southern region of Mindanao.

“Based on what we know, he is still active,” Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP Saturday.

“As far as we’re concerned he’s with the BIFF,” he said.

Zagala disclosed that the Philippine government has offered a reward of a P 6.3 million (roughly $144,000) for information leading to Usman’s capture.

“There is a standing warrant for his arrest on charges of multiple murder,” Zagala added.

“We are securing our communities and vital installations from his activities,” Hermoso added.

Although the MILF signed a peace treaty with the Philippine government early this year, with both parties agreeing to create Muslim self-rule in the region, the BIFF has rejected the accord, committing to continue the insurgency.