DAVAO CITY — Philipphines authorities are still hunting one of the most notorious protégés of slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” five years after the costly anti-terror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, identified the notorious bomb expert as Salahudin Hassan, who was among the trusted lieutenants of Marwan who was able to slip away during the infamous Philippine National Police-Special Action Force-led operation on Jan. 25, 2015.
The controversial clandestine operation, which sought to capture Marwan, left three civilians, 44 SAF troopers, and 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters dead. The incident sparked public outrage that led to the scrapping of the then Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Carreon added that Hassan is still operating with about 30 to 40 armed followers in the marshy areas of Central Mindanao. While reports always showed that military operations have been targeting IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters leader Esmael Abdulmalik, alias “Abu Torayfe,” Carreon acknowledged that Hassan is more dangerous than Abdulmalik.
Carreon claimed that Torayfe is just a titular figure in the Dawlah Islamiyah group while Hassan, who has a P1.3-million bounty, still poses the biggest threat. A seasoned intelligence officer affirmed that Hassan is indeed more notorious and more influential than Abdulmalik, given his vast network of terrorists’ cells.
He disclosed that from 2009 to 2010, Hassan went to Basilan and linked up with key Abu Sayyaf leaders Furuji Indama, Khair Mundos, and Termiji Akmada, alias “Imran.” Imran was arrested in Marawi City in 2013 along with Marwan’s brother-in-law Renren Dongon while Mundos was arrested in Manila in 2014.
“One of his missions there was supposedly to discuss the unification of Al-Khobar, Abu Sayyaf, and Indonesian jihadists in the country belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah,” the intelligence officer said.
While in Basilan, Hassan served as one of the instructors of young recruits in bomb making techniques. In 2013, Hassan brought Marwan to Maguindanao from Basilan, the intelligence officer added. Hassan was said to be a former member of a Special Operations Group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front before he broke away and formed the Al-Khobar Group sometime in 2005.
The MILF has repeatedly denied the allegation. Hassan hails from Kidapawan City and a son of religious Maguindanaon preacher. The intelligence officer said Hassan’s group is mainly composed of his close relatives and operates in the Ligawasan Marsh.
Hassan, who is now about 40-years-old, is facing multiple murder charges before the court for allegedly perpetrating several bomb attacks on bus companies and business establishments in Central Mindanao.