Troops hunt down Sayyafs

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - Front Page - (Mindanao Examiner)

BASILAN – Security forces continue to hunt down Abu Sayyaf rebels following a recent clash in the town of Sumisip that left over a dozen casualties on the military side, officials said.

Officials said troops were deployed in different towns where the Isis-affiliate Abu Sayyaf group is actively operating. Last week’s fighting was so fierce that more soldiers were needed to reinforce the troops battling the rebels Sumisip, where security forces earlier liberated several villages from the influence of the Abu Sayyaf.

Army Captain Joann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said three pro-government militias were killed and 11 more wounded, including six Special Forces soldiers in the battle.

“A heavy armed confrontation ensued between patrolling troops of the Joint Task Force Basilan and members of the Abu Sayyaf group in Sumisip,” she said, adding “as a result of the earlier engagements, five members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary sustained wounds, while three CAA members were killed in action. Six other soldiers were also wounded during the second encounter.”

Petinglay said 8 of the injured were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City while the others remain in hospital in Basilan, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. There was no immediate report of enemy casualties.

Last month, Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman led civilians and local leaders and the military and police in celebrating the liberation of several villages in Sumisip and even launched “People’s Day” as tribute to democracy and freedom from the Abu Sayyaf.

“This is the last bastion of the Abu Sayyaf that we are liberating. This village of Macalang has been impenetrable for years because of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf,” Hataman told villagers during the celebration. “We earlier liberated the villages of Baywas in the town Sumisip, and Baguindan in the adjacent town of Tipo-tipo. The Abu Sayyafs are on the run. They don’t have any more strongholds in Basilan.”

“We agreed with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to add a military battalion in this town to ensure the safety of the residence and prevent the Abu Sayyaf from establishing its presence again,” he said, pledging an initial P10 million worth of infrastructure projects in Macalang. “The groundbreaking ceremony is a symbol that governance is back in Macalang.”

Hataman said since 2012, the regional government allocated some P877 million worth of projects like roads and bridges to spur development and help the local economy progress.

But despite all these efforts, the Abu Sayyaf continues to sow terror in the province just several nautical miles away from the port city of Zamboanga.

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