DND mum on Sawadjaan IS claim pending verification

By Priam Nepomuceno

February 8, 2019, 1:08 pm

MANILA -- The Department of National Defense (DND) will not issue any statement on claims that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Hajan Sawadjaan, who allegedly masterminded the Jolo, Sulu bomb attack that killed at least 23 persons and wounded 95 others, is now the new Islamic State (IS) emir in the Philippines pending verification.

"The DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have our own validation method independent of the PNP and other government agencies. It would be inappropriate to issue further comments on this until we have received verification and confirmation from our own sources," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in message to reporters Thursday night.

In a separate message, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the terrorist group has its own selection process.

"The AFP is not privy to it and will not issue any confirmation. But whoever they recognize as such, we assure our people that the AFP’s desire to neutralize him and his terrorist cohorts is consistent and undiminished," he added.

Arevalo also said AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal is determined to employ all the capabilities of the military and apply the full force of the law against these terrorists.

"We will not stop until justice is served for the hapless civilians who were victims of their vicious attacks," he added.

Meanwhile, the AFP spokesperson said they are still confirming reports that ASG leader Idang Susukan was killed during recent military operations in Jolo.

"He was previously reported to be seriously wounded during the fierce encounter between the ASG and the AFP’s 41st Infantry Battalion,” Arevalo said.

"Progress reports from various sources on the ground indicate that he eventually died due to the severe injuries he sustained in that firefight. Notwithstanding these reports that tend to confirm each other, our troops in the area endeavor to locate his remains for us to conclusively report through DNA test that he indeed is dead," he added.

Once his death is conclusively established, Arevalo said this will deal a serious blow to the leadership of the ASG.

"He is one of the ASG’s notorious sub-leaders who perpetrated many kidnapping, beheading, and other terrorist attacks to include the twin blast in Jolo Cathedral," he said. (PNA)