Philippine police kill 4 suspected militants in Manila raid

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine police killed four suspected Islamic State group-linked militants during a raid on a hideout in metropolitan Manila early Friday, security officials said.

Metropolitan Manila Police Chief Debold Sinas said police and intelligence agents planned to serve a search warrant at a house in suburban Paranaque city after months of surveillance when the suspected militants opened fire.

An officer was shot in the leg and was hospitalized, police said. They said they seized pistols, an M16 assault rifle, two grenades, ammunition, suspected bomb parts, money transfer records and two black flags with Islamic writing.

The raid came as President Rodrigo Duterte considers whether to sign a new and more powerful anti-terror law which was recently passed by Congress. The country’s military chief cited Friday’s gunbattle as a reason Duterte should sign it as soon as possible.

“It is public security and general welfare that are at stake. We should protect and defend from terrorists without further delay,” Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said.

He said the presence of the suspects in the Manila area underscored their readiness to plot an attack despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials did not say whether the suspects were plotting a specific attack.

The proposed Anti-Terror Act would allow the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without charge and empower a government anti-terrorism council to designate suspects or groups as suspected terrorists who could then be subjected to arrest and surveillance.

Opponents say the legislation violates the constitution, defines terrorism too broadly, could be misused to target government critics and could threaten legitimate dissent.

Those slain Friday, including a woman, were identified by police as Merhama Abdul Sawari, Bensaudi Sali, Rasmin Hussin and Jamal Kalliming.

Sinas said the suspects handled funds for Daulah Islamiyah, one of the militant groups blamed for laying siege to Marawi city in the southern Philippines for five months in 2017.

Sawari facilitated funds for Philippine-based militants from Indonesia’s Sulawesi region, Sinas said in a statement, without elaborating.