As of last night, five Abu Sayyaf bandits, three soldiers and a policeman had died in heavy fighting in Bohol. Central Visayas is a long way from the terrorist group’s lairs in Sulu and Basilan, raising concern that the bandits are expanding their areas of operation. The clashes occurred as the United States and Australia, with the United Kingdom joining them yesterday, warned their citizens about the threat of being kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.
The group is still holding foreign hostages after beheading a German captive in February and two Canadians last year for failure to pay ransom. The threat of kidnapping more foreigners is already inflicting damage on the economy of Bohol.
As described by foreign media reports yesterday, Bohol is a known travel destination, and Holy Week is peak season for tourism. The province has unique attractions – the endangered tarsier and the Chocolate Hills, among others – but local and foreign travelers alike will readily skip the sights if there’s a threat of being kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.
This threat cannot be contained by the military alone; the local government must take the lead and mobilize community action to confront troublemakers. Palawan, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, suffered heavily from Abu Sayyaf raids and kidnapping of tourists. Residents of the province later banded together to help protect their communities and improve responses to terrorist threats.
The situation is different in certain conflict zones in Mindanao, where local authorities themselves are suspected of coddling the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups for personal gain. Other provinces must not allow a similar situation to develop. Lives, property, jobs and livelihoods are at stake, and the military and police perform their tasks best with public support.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): Bohol ‘safest place on earth’ after foiled terror threat
MANILA, Philippines — After a clash with the Abu Sayyaf in a village there, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said that Bohol is “now the safest place on earth.”
“As of now because of this incident I could say that Bohol is the safest place on earth…Whatever na plans nila dito, it was disrupted and degraded,” AFP Central Command Commander Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao said in a televised press briefing.
On Tuesday, militant group Abu Sayyaf and Philippine security forces clashed in Inabanga town, Bohol , where six militants and four government troops died. The number of militants killed include its leader, Muammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami.
Due to this, the AFP considered its operation against the bandits a “very successful” one and praised the cooperation and leadership of the Philippine National Police, local government unit of Bohol and its communities.
Lactao assured the public that there is no imminent attack since that was already thwarted but he said the security sector will remain vigilant for threats. The AFP said it is still going after remnants of the group that arrived in Bohol on pump boats Tuesday morning.
The general encouraged the public to live normally and warned that terrorism does not happen only in the Philippines and so the citizens must learn to live with it.
For Lactao, the antidote to terrorism is not showing panic and living normally to avoid giving terrorists the benefit of victory without firing a single shot.
“It’s (terrorism) there but our country and government is resilient,” Lactao said.
“Talo na nga sila dito, sila namatayan dito, ‘di nila nagawa dapat nilang gawin, back to normal tayo,” he said.
‘Safe to travel to Bohol’
For his part, Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto assured the public and potential tourists that everything is back to normal in Inabanga town. He said the rest of the province was not affected by the clash.
“We want international community to be aware that situation was contained Inabanga and did not affect the rest of Bohol or rest of the country,” Chatto said in a separate televised interview.
Chatto also urged those who are planning to cancel their bookings not to worry. “Wag nila i-cancel mamimiss nila ang Bohol,” he concluded.
The governor said that Bohol only had heightened security because of the Lenten season and the ASEAN 2017, where there is expected influx of tourists and guests in the province but their vigilance paid off.
Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Rami killed in Bohol
MANILA, Philippines — The leader of the group of Abu Sayyaf bandits that figured in a gun fight with Philippine security forces Tuesday has been killed, pushing the number of militants killed to six, according to the Philippine National Police and the governor of the province of Bohol.
The death of Muammar Askali, who is also known as Abu Rami, the leader of the group of terrorists who engaged the military and the police in Inabanga town, was confirmed by Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 Director Noli Taliño, The Freeman reported.
A separate confirmation of Abu Rami’s death was also made by Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto in a radio interview with DZRH.
Abu Rami’s death put the number of terrorists killed to six while four soldiers perished in the group’s foray into the Visayas region, far from their traditional strongholds in Jolo and Basilan in Mindanao.
Chatto said in the radio interview that the group had already been neutralized and individuals and establishments were slowly returning to normalcy. The governor added that intensified security measures would be put in place especially this Holy Week.
Palace: Be calm but alert
Malacañang meanwhile assured the public that there was no cause for alarm as the situation was already contained by security forces.
“The public should have no cause for alarm as the situation is contained and our security forces are in control. The government is exerting all efforts to maintain peace and order,” Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, said in a statement.
The Palace also called on the public to be calm but alert and vigilant and to report to authorities information on possible threats to public safety.
Abella also paid tribute to the members of the security force who were killed in Bohol as he assured their families that the government would extend all the necessary assistance to them.
“One officer, two soldiers, and a policeman paid the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duty to serve and protect our people. They are true heroes,” Abella said. “We salute their gallantry as we also assure their families that they will be provided all the necessary assistance from the government.”
Malacañang also commended the security forces and the local communities for their timely action and cooperation.
Abella said that the response of the police and military thwarted the “evil plans of some armed lawless elements to sow fear and terror” in Bohol.
“We also laud the vigilance and cooperation of local communities that led to the rapid deployment of security forces against these bandits,” he said.
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