Muammar Askali, who goes by the alias Abu Rami, was among six Abu Sayyaf militants killed in a firefight on the central resort island of Bohol on Tuesday, said military chief General Eduardo Ano.
Rami’s body was recovered after the clash in a village in the coastal town of Inabanga in Bohol, 600 kilometres south of Manila, Ano said.
“This is a very big accomplishment and a big blow against the Abu Sayyaf,” he told reporters. “Abu Rami was a very notorious Abu Sayyaf leader who even acted as their spokesman.”
“We can attribute a lot of atrociites to Abu Rami,” he added. “In fact, he was being eyed as one of the future leaders of the Abu Sayyaf.”
According to military intelligence reports, Rami ordered the beheading of two Canadian nationals in 2016 and a 70-year-old German hostage in February after ransom was not paid.
He also reportedly planned the kidnapping of a German couple off the Malaysian state of Sabah in April 2014. The hostages were freed six months later after a ransom of about 5 million dollars was paid.
Ano said Rami and his group allegedly travelled to Bohol to abduct foreign and local tourists but their plans were foiled when residents reported the presence of armed men to authorities.
US and Australian authorities earlier warned of “unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings” in Bohol and the nearby province of Cebu.
Aside from undertaking kidnappings for ransom, the Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the military to crush the militant group and warns that it could be a source of recruitment for the Islamic State extremist militia.