MANILA – Abdul Basit Usman, the Philippine terror suspect whom the military blames for bombings in the nation’s south, was killed in a shootout Sunday, the military said.
Usman, who is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted terrorists list with a $1 million bounty, died in a clash with his own men in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, military chief General Pio Catapang said in an emailed statement on Monday, citing reports.
“Sources on the ground believe that there was infighting among Usman’s followers fueled by the tussle for the huge monetary reward that was put on his head,” Catapang said. The military is validating reports that Usman, a bomb expert, lost trust in his own men after encounters with government soldiers over the past two months, he said.
Five other unidentified collaborators of the terror suspect were killed in the May 3 shootout, the military said.
The military had been pursuing the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or BIFF, a splinter rebel group, and a small band of militants led by Usman since he escaped during a botched police mission Jan. 25 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.
The U.S. had considered Usman a threat since he arranged several civilian bombings in the Mindanao region starting in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, one of the targets of the January raid, was killed, along with 44 police commandos. The cops were killed in a clash with fighters of the BIFF and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with which the government has signed a peace pact.
“Because of the continuous military operation, they are having doubts about their own men and support,” Catapang said Monday at a televised briefing in Manila.
Usman’s death is a setback for BIFF, which had coddled him for some time, Catapang said. “There won’t be anyone to teach them how to make bombs,” he said.