OFFICIALS ASSURE NO ABU IN CEBU
Law enforcers assure there is no Abu Sayyaf in Cebu and the eight members of the bandit group are still trapped in Inabanga, Bohol. A leader of the Muslim community in Cebu says they have given full cooperation to the police and understands when some of their Muslim brothers are invited by the police for questioning. Police released six “suspicious-looking” men, later found to be law-abiding Muslim traders, held in Oslob town. One of them laments: “Not all Muslims are Abu Sayyaf.” Government troops continue to search Olango Island for two men believed to be armed.
Government troops continued to search for two armed men spotted along the beach lines of Barangay San Vicente on Olango Island on Thursday afternoon.
Soldiers and police forces conducted clearing operations, but until 5 p.m. yesterday, the search proved negative.
Patrolling army and navy personnel were pulled out yesterday afternoon.
Barangay Captain Cyrus Eyas said the sightings and the presence of government troopers created fear especially among residents of Sitios Basdaku and Baskural where the two armed men were reportedly seen.
At least 25 families from Sitio Basdaku, consisting mostly of children, evacuated to the nearby Sta. Rosa Elementary School at 9 p.m. on Thursday and spent the night there.
They started returning to their homes at 5 a.m. on Friday.
“The residents were very scared,” said Eyas.
He raised the possibility that the two were members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who were being hunted down in Inabanga town in Bohol after engaging government troops in intense gunfire last week.
Inabanga is located across Olango Island and is a little over an hour’s travel by pumpboat.
“We suspect that the two were looking for medicines and food,” said Eyas.
But he admitted that the search for the two armed men will not be easy because they could be hiding in the 1,100hectare mangrove forest at the bird sanctuary in San Vicente.
There is even a possibility that they left the island on Thursday night.
The police offices of the cities of Mandaue and Cebu sent two teams to aug- ment the Lapu-Lapu police who joined the operations on Olango Island.
A female resident identified as Erlinda Taneo, who lives near the boundary of Sitios Basdaku and Baskural, claimed seeing two armed men at about 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The resident, Eyas said, was supposed to respond to the call of nature when she saw the two men about 20 meters away.
They wore jackets and carried backpacks and long firearms.
A piece of cloth covered their faces except for the eyes.
“One man appeared to be weak because he was being supported by his companion while walking,” said Eyas.
Alarmed, the female resident immediately reported what she saw to village officials in the barangay hall.
Eyas said they then called for police assistance.
Two hours later, around 20 government troopers from the Philippine Navy, Philippine Army and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) arrived at Barangay San Vicente around 3 p.m.
Bursts of gun fire were heard shortly after their arrival.
Eyas said SWAT personnel also found late on Thursday afternoon a temporary shelter set up in a forested area located close to the bird sanctuary’s mangrove area.
The shelter had a hammock and rice sacks used as improvised sleeping mats. Water bottles, empty cans and dried fish were also found in the area.
“Mu rag na ayn ipahu way anang lug ara ,” Eyas said.
Eyas said that aside from the two armed men, they are also looking into reports that at least four more men roamed the nearby barangay of Sabang on Olango Island at noontime on Thursday, at least an hour before Taneo saw the two armed men on the coastal area of Sitios Basdaku and Baskural.
Sabang is located a barangay away from San Vicente, next to Barangay Sta. Rosa.
Eyas said he received a text message yesterday informing him that five men whose faces were covered with cloth and who were carrying backpacks visited the sari-sari store of Sitio Tuburan, Barangay Sabang, resident Aida Patigdas to ask for money and food.
Patigdas is a San Vicente native who married a Barangay Sabang resident.
The store’s caretaker told the men that store owner Patigdas was still taking a bath. Unable to wait longer, the men left.
“Dili lang klaro ug aramado ba sad tong mga tawhana kay wala may nakit-an nga armas ang mga taw,” said Eyas.
Eyas said that when the group of five men passed by another store selling puto, they took the food without paying for it.
Members of the SubaOlango Eco-Tour Association also saw suspiciouslooking men while they were picking mangrove propagules at the bird sanctuary last week.
The two other sightings were only reported to authorities after government troops entered the island on Thursday afternoon.
A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO) is sent to Olango Island to patrol the sea and to serve as a blocking force following reports of a sighting of two armed men on the island.
A SWAT team searches for armed persons reportedly sighted by a resident at a mangrove forest in Barangay San Vicente, Olango Island, and find mats and traces of food believed to belong to the armed persons.