MANILA - Philippine security forces have killed the leader of a terrorist group with ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told news website Rappler that Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias "Tokboy", head of Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines, was killed in a police operation at around 1am on Thursday (Jan 5) in Kiamba town, Sarangani province.
"It was an inter-agency operation, led by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and police," Mr Esperon told Rappler in a text message.
Chief Superintendent Cedrick Train said police caught up with Maguid as he was about to leave a beach resort in a Toyota Wigo sedan. He was killed on the spot, while three of his men were arrested.
Police also seized items including two AR-15 assault rifles and a grenade.
Maguid was said to have trained under Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, who was killed by police commandos in January 2015.
Under Maguid, Ansar al-Khilafah managed to link up with militant groups in Indonesia, notably Mujihidin Indonesia Timur, led by Santoso, an Indonesian who trained in the Philippines.
Maguid, who carried a 300,000-peso (S$8,706) reward for his capture, was believed to have been a former commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is now holding peace talks with the government for an autonomous Muslim region in the war-torn southern island group of Mindanao.
Maguid was arrested in 2009 on charges of murder, arson, and robbery. He escaped jail in 2010.
Ansar al-Khilafah is one of a handful of extremist groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. The group was reportedly behind plots to disrupt the 2015 Apec summit in Manila.
It recently had been providing support for the Maute group, held responsible for the bombing of a popular night market in President Rodrigo Duterte's home city of Davao in September that left 14 dead, and a plot to bomb the US embassy in Manila.
A graphic video posted on Facebook in April last year showed men who identified themselves as part of Ansar al-Khilafah beheading a man they claimed was a police spy.
Ansar al Khilafah figured in a three-minute video posted in December 2015 that showed a group of men, clad mostly in black, coaxing Muslims to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS.
The group is believed to be sheltering at least three South-east Asian extremists who have returned after fighting with ISIS in Syria.