MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A suspected Abu Sayyaf militant was killed by his own bomb when it exploded as he was transporting it by motorcycle in the southern Philippines, a military commander said Wednesday.
The explosion killed Reynald Sapilin and destroyed his motorcycle on Tuesday in a rubber plantation village in Lamitan city on Basilan island, where the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group has been active for years, army Col. Carlito Galvez said.
Sapilin, who was armed with a pistol, may have planned to detonate the bomb in Lamitan or in nearby Isabela city but had difficulty moving around because of road checkpoints set up by the army, Galvez said. He made a call using his cellphone and was seen tinkering with the bomb, which was concealed in his backpack, when it apparently accidentally exploded, Galvez said.
Sapilin is suspected of having been involved in the recent killings of army intelligence officers in Basilan, he said.
Government forces have been alerted to look for another possible bomber, Galvez said. He said intelligence received by the military indicated the Abu Sayyaf had planned to detonate two bombs either as part of a terrorist plot or an extortion attempt.
Washington has blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group. More than 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters have remained mostly in Basilan and nearby Jolo island despite years of U.S.-backed Philippine offensives, surviving on extortion, kidnappings and other acts of banditry.
There are up to 80 Abu Sayyaf fighters in predominantly Muslim Basilan, including Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, Galvez said. The U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward for the capture or killing of Hapilon for alleged killings and abductions, including of Americans.