3 Abus killed in Bohol
MANILA, Philippines – The terror group Abu Sayyaf beheaded another one of its captives, a soldier in Patikul, Sulu, the military said yesterday.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed that Staff Sgt. Anni Siraji was beheaded three days after he was kidnapped in Barangay Igasan.
Sobejana told ABS-CBN that troops found Siraji’s severed head and body in the village of Taglibis, Upper Patikul early yesterday.
Siraji, a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighter integrated into the Army, was snatched by seven suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on Thursday morning.
The military said the soldier, who was unarmed, was traveling to Barangay Igasan in Patikul when the militants snatched him at gunpoint.
Siraji, a native of Sulu, had been helping the government in the peace and development efforts in the province.
The kidnapping of Siraji came after the bandit group beheaded Filipino sailor Noel Besconde earlier this month.
The beheadings occurred while the military focused on hunting down the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who went to Bohol.
After a massive manhunt, government forces killed at least four suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits since Saturday in Bohol where troops had foiled possible kidnapping and bombing plots by extremists earlier this April.
Hours after Joselito Melloria, alias Abu Alih, was killed Saturday, three more suspected bandits were killed by troops in Barangay Bacani, Clarin town yesterday.
Officials have yet to verify the names of the three dead militants who were reportedly armed with M16 and M14 rifles.
The regional military command said local officials decided to bury the four slain bandits in a mass grave yesterday. Melloria’s body was placed in a white casket while the three still unidentified gunmen were buried in body bags.
Melloria was killed in a gun battle with about seven militants near Clarin. His companions fled and three of them were later killed by troops, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said.
“They dared to go to an unfamiliar area and they couldn’t find any support from villagers in Bohol,” Año said, adding that troops were continuing to hunt down the remaining militants.
Following the killing of the four bandits over the weekend, President Duterte yesterday ordered the military “not to sleep” until they finish off the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol as he warned the terrorists that he can replicate their acts “50 times over.”
“Do not sleep. Kill them. I want them dead. Do not deliver them to me alive,” Duterte said during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa in Antique.
“The terrorists cut other people’s throat, slit it. They are animals. If you want me to be an animal, I am used to that. We are alike. I can dish out more than what you can 50 times over,” he added.
Duterte reiterated his previous warning to terrorists that he can eat them alive.
“Just give me vinegar and salt, I’ll eat you. That’s true, and I’ll eat his liver,” he said.
The military said the slain suspects were stragglers from a boatload of Abu Sayyaf gunmen who sailed to Bohol early this month as part of a plot to kidnap tourists.
The raid had signaled an escalation of the kidnapping threat from the Abu Sayyaf, who are based in Sulu and Basilan and also blamed for beheadings and deadly bombings.
“Terrorism has no place in the Visayas (central) region,” said a joint military and police statement announcing the death of the four Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
Five other Abu Sayyaf militants had been killed in earlier clashes in Inabanga town on April 11, where three soldiers and a policeman were also slain.
Among those killed was Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami, who was reportedly involved in the beheading of two Canadians last year and a German hostage last February.
The military said they had been pursuing up to seven of the remaining gunmen.
Three suspects were still on the run after the latest clashes, officials said.
“The remaining lawless armed elements who are strangers in the area have nowhere to go,” the joint statement said.
“It could just be a matter of time before we can say that the threat (on Bohol) is totally eliminated,” they said.
While he claimed to have no plans to resort to such drastic action, Duterte said he would put an end to all the problems in Mindanao if he declares martial law.
“I will end all problems whether it is terrorism or land boundary row or family feud. I will end all of them. I will not leave any problem behind,” he said.
“If I declare martial law, I’ll ask the Navy to blast even the people. To the terrorists in Mindanao, I’m warning you I hate it. I do not want it but I said do not force me to do it because it will be a sad day for all of us.”
Duterte said Mindanao will change if he decides to impose military rule in the island.
“I will lock down Mindanao. I will put an end to the problem, even the people there,” he said.
Duterte earlier warned he might “invade” Jolo, the island province stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf to “finish the game.”
When asked when he thinks the Abu Sayyaf menace in Bohol would end, Duterte had said invading Jolo, or locking down Mindanao, might be “the last option” if the whole nation is placed in jeopardy by the bandit group.
The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bombings. Its leaders have also pledged allegiance to Islamic State gunmen in Iraq and Syria.
The fighting in Bohol caused a scare for the country’s tourism industry.
The clashes occurred as the Philippines prepared to host the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings on April 26 to 29.
The Philippines alerted Western governments after the military said it got wind of an Abu Sayyaf plan to raid tourist resorts in Central Visayas during the Easter holidays and kidnap up to a dozen tourists.
This led to travel warnings being issued by the United States, Australia and other countries.
President Duterte had offered a P1-million bounty for each Abu Sayyaf bandit captured dead or alive. He said he preferred them dead.
Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from southern Mindanao where the military has been waging an offensive in recent months.
Its gunmen have been boarding commercial and fishing vessels and abducting dozens of foreign crew members, ransoming some of them off for huge sums of money. – Michael Punongbayan, Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Gilbert Bayoran, Christell Fatima Tudtud and Rolex Elmido/The Freeman, AFP