Security forces hunt down terrorists
SECURITY forces continue its hunt for Abu Sayyaf rebels harboring foreign terrorists in the province of Basilan in the troubled Muslim autonomous region following a deadly clash recently that left dozens of casualties in Al-Barka town.
A Malaysian bomb expert Mohammad Hussein was reportedly among those killed on the side of the Abu Sayyaf in fierce clashes in the village of Macalang.
At least a dozen soldiers were killed and injured in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf. The military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City has confirmed the fighting and said 3 soldiers and 15 rebels were slain and that 20 more had been wounded on both sides in the clashes.
The town is one of known strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf rebels and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed an interim peace deal with Manila last year.
No other details were made available by the military in the operation in the restive province of Basilan where Abu Sayyaf rebels are believed to be coddling Malaysian and Indonesian militants linked to ISIS.
The military operation in Basilan involved forces from the army’s 104th Infantry Brigade – 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, 4th Special Forces Battalion, Marine Special Operations Group, and 12th Light Armor Cavalry.
It was unknown if the MILF was actively involved in the clashes, but it previously fought side by side with the Abu Sayyaf against security forces in Basilan, a known bastion of local terrorist groups blamed for deadly bombing in the province and nearby Zamboanga City.
The province is also being used by the Abu Sayyaf rebels to hide foreigners and Filipinos they kidnapped from other areas in southern Philippines. Many innocent victims of the Abu Sayyaf had been killed and beheaded in the restive province of Basilan, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga.
The fighting broke out just barely two weeks after the National Intelligence Board warned of potential attacks by terrorists in Zamboanga City and other areas in the southern region, including resorts frequented by tourists in Aklan in western Visayas, and Palawan province that forced police and military authorities to heighten security alert in those places.
Zamboanga police chief Angelito Casimiro said the city is now in red alert status due to high threats of terrorism. He said there are persistent intelligence reports of bombings and kidnappings by terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf.
Mayor Beng Climaco said a team of US-trained Light Reaction Company of the Philippine Army has arrived in Zamboanga to help police beef up security here.