SAYYAFS ON THE RUN, AS MILITARY HUNT CONTINUES
THE PHILIPPINE military said the Abu Sayyaf is now on the run in Basilan and Sulu provinces following continued operations against the notorious militant group tied to the Islamic State.
Although thousands of troops had been sent to the provinces, Abu Sayyaf leaders evaded security forces while their followers mingled with civilian communities.
Just recently, the military’s Western Mindanao Command said several militants were killed in Sulu’s Patikul town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
It said the soldiers from the 35th and 21st infantry battalions clashed with about 30 militants under Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Jamiri Jawhari and Basaron Arok in Danag village.
A security spokesman, quoting reports from civilians in the village, claimed the bodies of slain militants were taken by their companions and that many others had been wounded in the clash.
But there were no civilians in the area because villagers had fled their homes for fear they would be caught up in the crossfire or mistaken for militants. The military said the operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing and that over 30 gunmen had been killed since the offensive against the notorious group began last month.
Many civilians in the town have armed themselves and joined the governmentbacked militia group called Barangay Police Action Team (BPAT) originally organized in 2009 during the time of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan to protect civilian communities from Abu Sayyaf atrocities.
The incumbent Governor Toto Tan said he will help BPAT members secure permits for their weapons and told them to strictly follow the law and use their licensed firearms to secure and protect their villages against Abu Sayyaf attacks.
Many towns also have its own BPAT which is being supervised by their mayors and police authorities.
Civilians have been providing authorities with information on the Abu Sayyaf and are supporting the government action against the militant group, blamed by the police and military for the spate of brutal killings of innocent people and ransom kidnappings in the restive region.
Military photo shows army soldiers posing with an ISIS flag in Basilan province in southern Philippines where security forces are battling the Abu Sayyaf