The suspected mastermind of a bombing at a Catholic mass in the southern Philippines has been killed, following clashes between members of a pro-ISIS group and government forces, officials said Monday.
Four people were killed and dozens more injured in a Dec. 3 attack on worshipers inside a university gym in Marawi, the largest Muslim city in the Philippines that was later claimed by the Islamic State group.
Eight members of the Dawlah Islamiyah militant group are suspected of carrying out attacks on the island of Mindanao, army brigade commander Brigadier General Yegor Rey Barroquillo told AFP.
Five people died in the hunting operation, one person has been detained and two others are still at large, he said.
Among the dead was Gaddafi Mimbesa, who used the pseudonym “Engineer”. The Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement that he was the “mastermind” behind the bombing.
Mimbesa was wounded in a firefight between soldiers and militants hiding on a mountain farm, near the remote southern town of Piagapo, in late January, Barroquillo told AFP.
Nine militants, including three bombing suspects, were killed in the fighting.
Mimbesa was injured but managed to escape and died several days later while being treated by a supporter, Barroquillo said, citing intelligence reports.
In his statement, army chief General Romeo Brawner urged other members of the militant group to surrender and “avoid the same fate as your fallen comrades”.
Militant attacks on buses, Catholic churches and markets have been a form of violence that has lasted for decades in the south.
The Philippines signed a peace pact with the country's largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion.
But there are still small groups of Muslim fighters who oppose the peace agreement, including militants who claim allegiance to the Islamic State group. (ns/lt)