ABU SAYYAF IN BOHOL
Government forces on Bohol Island yesterday declared it will now be next to impossible for the two to three remaining Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits to flee from the island, with the hunt now being focused on the three coastal towns of Inabanga, Clarin and Tubigon.
“Hindi na sila makakaalis sa Bohol. (They can no longer leave Bohol). They have nowhere to go,” Senior Supt. Felipe Natividad Jr., director of the Bohol Provincial Police Office, told reporters after he attended a command conference at the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) headquarters in Cebu City yesterday.
Natividad said they have cordoned off the area where the three bandits are hiding as government troopers continue to hunt them.
The surviving ASG members — identified as Kaifar Sawadjaan, also known as Um Ammra; and two others who carried the aliases “Asis” and “Ubayda” — are believed to be hiding in the mountainous areas of Inabanga, Clarin, and Tubigon, he said.
Natividad appealed to Boholanos to continue relaying information to the authorities of any suspicious-looking person or unusual activities in their communities.
He also encouraged bus companies to post in their buses the poster of the photos of the three remaining bandits to constantly alert anyone who might have seen them.
Natividad said anybody who attempts to rescue the three bandits will be bound to fail, just like what happened to the foiled rescue plot staged by a wanted ASG bomb expert, Renierlo Dongon, and his “wife,” Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza.
“Okay lang, para tapusin na natin silang lahat, para rin hindi na mahirapan ang gobyerno paghanap sa kanila (If they want to come to Bohol to rescue their companions, we are okay with that so that we can finish them off and the government will no longer have a hard time looking for them),” Natividad said.
“The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army are ready,” he added.
He said Boholanos, including the Muslim community in the province, are still helping authorities by relaying information to locate the remaining ASG members on the island.
“The Boholanos are really helping us. They are very active. When we received an information, we send out operatives to validate it,” he said.
He added: “Everyone in Bohol, including their Muslim brothers, is mad at them. In fact, the Muslim community disowned the bandits. They said real Muslims are peace-loving and are not engaged in illegal activities,” Natividad said.
Since the band of ASG members infiltrated Bohol via the Inabanga River on April 10, eight of the bandits have been killed in two gun battles in the municipalities of Inabanga and Clarin.
Killed were Mouamar Askali, the leader of the group; bomb experts Abu Sufyan and Edimar Isnain; Joselito Melloria, a Boholano ASG member who had guided the bandits into his hometown Inabanga; pumpboat operator Aldimar Taib; an alias Richard; an alias Omil; and an unidentified man.
Capt. Jojo Mascariñas, spokesperson of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Bohol, asked the public to be very vigilant as the remaining three ASG bandits might attempt to blend with the people.
One characteristic of the Abu Sayyaf members that Boholanos should watch out for, he said, is their manner of speaking.
“Dili sila maayo mag-Cebuano. Mahimo sila magpa-amang-amang o bungol aron dili sila mailhan pinaagi sa ilang sinultihan (They don’t speak Cebuano well.
They can pretend to be deaf or mute so that people won’t be able to identify them through their manner of speaking),” Mascariñas said.
Naval forces and the maritime police continue to monitor the seas surrounding Bohol to prevent the bandits from escaping and to stop any rescue mission.
Random checkpoints are being conducted by the police in key areas in Bohol, he added.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, PRO-7 director, earlier said only one of the remaining three bandits is armed.
“They are on survival mode now. What they have are just what they bring or anything they see on their way,” he said.
“They must be running out of food now. We will get them in due time,” he added.
Back to normal
Residents from 13 Clarin barangays who were evacuated at the height of the battle between ASG members and state forces over the weekend and during the succeeding pursuit operations have returned home, according to Mayor Rey Piezas.
Those who have returned home are also helping authorities monitor their communities in case the fleeing ASG members are sighted, he added.
From Saturday, when the fighting erupted in Barangay Bacani, and during pursuit operations until Wednesday, around 1,082 families or about 3,862 individuals from 13 barangays in Clarin were evacuated to the Clarin Cultural Center and the Bohol Island State University, both in the town center.
The mayor said the affected residents will undergo stress debriefing starting next week.
At the same time, he said, residents of Clarin are attempting to normalize their lives by preparing for the fiesta festivities this May both in the barangay and town levels, except that they will be skipping the holding of crowd-drawing events such as community dances.
Nobleza and Dongon, meanwhile, are still undergoing interrogation at Camp Crame, the PNP headquarters in Quezon City.
PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa earlier expressed disbelief over Nobleza’s claim that she had been working as a spy for the government against the terror group, particularly after finding out the she had converted to Islam and married Dongon in a wedding supposedly officiated by Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, an international terrorist who was killed in January 2015 in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao in an infamous PNP operation now dubbed as the Mamasapano Massacre, which claimed the lives of 44 elite policemen belonging to the Special Action Force (SAF).
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