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Military: Abus in Bohol now in ‘survival mode’

By Mario J. Mallari
and Ted Tuvera

The remaining Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Bohol are now focused on “survival” instead of sowing terror and conducting kidnapping in the province where there is ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meet.
At the same time, the military said that the P1-million bounty offered by President Duterte for each head will surely boost the ongoing manhunt operations.
“At this point, their goal is survival, to escape. There is no intention to kidnap or conduct bombing…they are just for self-preservation, to escape Bohol,” said Capt. Jojo Mascareñas, civil military operations officer of the Army’s 302nd Brigade.
Mascareñas stressed that the Abu Sayyaf men are still in the province.
“They are now finding ways to leave, escape Bohol, but we will make sure that they will not leave here without us capturing or neutralizing them,” he said.
Mascareñas, however, warned that the hunted Abu Sayyaf men are still armed and “capable to cause harm to anybody.”
Based on intelligence information, he said government troops are pursuing six to seven ASG members who were part of the group of terrorist sub-leader Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami, which landed in Inabanga town on April 10.
The following day, combined police and military troops engaged the Abu Sayyaf Group in Barangay Napo, resulting in the killing of Askali and three other Abu Sayyaf men and a local couple, whose link to the ASG is still being determined.
On the other hand, four government troops, including a junior Army officer, were also killed in action.
Mascareñas also said that the P1-million bounty offered by President Duterte for each of the Abu Sayyaf bandits on the run in Bohol is a huge boost to the ongoing manhunt operations.
“Even ordinary people will now have the interest to locate the group,” he said.
Duterte made the offer on Wednesday during his visit to Bohol where he was briefed on the security of the ongoing Asean meet there.
According to Mascareñas, government forces have not stopped operating against the Abu Sayyaf men.
“From day one up to now, we have not stopped. Our soldiers no longer come down from the mountains,” Mascareñas said.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, at a Palace briefing yesterday, clarified that the Duterte’s recent pitch to pay locals to track down suspected Abus “dead or alive” in Bohol is just an expression to emphasize the need for public vigilance against the terrorists.
“I think the statement was in a sense... a dramatization of making sure that security is raised up in the area,” Abella said.
“The President, he has a way of underlining what he wants to do...  It’s not a policy direction, okay. It’s not a policy… There’s no paper to support that,” he added.
Abella noted that Duterte’s message intends to boost the moral of active civilian defense against the Abu Sayyaf’s sudden presence outside their common lairs in Basilan and Sulu.
“It doesn’t mean to say that every house and you know will be having arms. I’m sure it simply — I’m assuming that part of the civil defense, in civil defense would be pushed up,” he said.
Asked if how serious the President really is in arming civilians, the Palace official said: “That’s something that will be left to him (Duterte).”
Meanwhile, sustained military operations could be taking its toll on Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, who is supposedly sending surrender feelers to the government.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said that a close friend of Sahiron is relaying his supposed intent to surrender.
Sobejana described the emissary as a “well-respected, traditional leader” — apparently in Sulu.
“There are feelers. Accordingly, as reported to us he (Sahiron) is weak, tired and weary because they are moving from one place to another,” Sobejana said.
“On our part, we don’t stop, we don’t get tired. We rotate our forces just like in basketball — those who are tired are being replaced, so continuous,” he added.
Sobejana said that he is directly in contact with the “emissary” but admitted that the matter is still a work in progress.
“We are working on it…on our part, we want to validate the sincerity of Radullan…we have to get other sources to corroborate the report,” Sobejana said.
Sobejana said that Sahiron’s surrender would solve 70 percent of the Abu Sayyaf problem in Sulu.
“Considering that he is a respected leader, his followers will follow suit…we can place 60 to 70 percent of the problem (would be) solved,” Sobejana said.
Among the possible replacement of Sahiron would be Yasser Igasan, the religious leader of the ASG, and Hatib Sawadjaan, a sub-leader.
Asked if he thinks that Sahiron is seriously considering surrender, Sobejana said “because of their present condition, on the run. They run short of logistics…they are outside of their comfort zones, they no longer enjoy the support coming from the community, so there is truth.”
The military official also cited Sahiron’s age — who is in his 70s as reported.
Sahiron is wanted by the United States with $1-million reward for his neutralization.

1 comment

  • Yves Boquet

    Go get them. dead or alive

    Yves Boquet Friday, 21 April 2017 09:49 Comment Link

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