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2 new clashes in Bohol: 4 more Sayyaf members dead

Authorities retrieve the body of Joselito Melloria, the point person of the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, following an encounter in Clarin town yesterday afternoon. Hours later, three more members of the terrorist group were killed in a separate encounter. Photo Courtesy Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio

CEBU, Philippines - Four more members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed in a firefight between the group and government troops in Clarin town in Bohol yesterday.

The first encounter occurred early afternoon while the second one occurred hours later at around 8 p.m.

Clarin is situated next to Inabanga town where soldiers and police clashed during the Holy Week. That encounter led to the death of five Abu Sayyaf members and four government troops.

Bohol Provincial Police Director Felipe Natividad identified the fatality in the afternoon clash as Joselito Melloria a.k.a Ali, the Abu Sayyaf’s point person in the island.

Melloria reportedly suffered a wound to his left ear and right part of his chest, said Fernando Peroramas, the chief of the Clarin Police Station. He also reportedly had older wounds, which he may have incurred in the previous encounter.

“The combined troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police successfully conducted law enforcement operations that resulted to the death of one lawless element in Bohol and the recovery of one high-power firearm. The encounter took place eleven days after the first skirmishes with the same group in a remote barangay in Inabanga, Bohol,” reads the joint statement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

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“In the encounter that took place in Sitio Lagsing, Barangay Bacani, Clarin, Bohol at 12:50 p.m. today, April 22, 2017, Joselito Melloria a.k.a. Abu Ali was killed. After the death of Muammar Askali a.k.a. Abu Rami on April 11, 2017 in Sitio Yraya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga of same province, Melloria, being a native of the province assumed command and led the group in its attempt to escape the pursuing government troops. His death led the group with no leader and direction,” the statement reads further.

Late last night, Peroramas confirmed to The Freeman that three more Abu Sayyaf members were killed in a second encounter at around 8 p.m. But the names of the fatalities were not yet available as of press time.

The second encounter occurred in Barangay Caboy, still in Clarin town.

It was early yesterday morning when authorities received a report from a resident in Clarin about the presence of alleged Abu Sayyaf members in the town.

After validating the information, a group of soldiers and policemen proceeded to the area at midday.

At 2 p.m., the Clarin police received a message from the field that said, “Ok, chief. Ongoing pa ang bakbakan.”

By 3 p.m., the firefight subsided and police would confirm later that Melloria got killed. However, six Abu Sayyaf members managed to flee and government troops continued to pursue them until in the evening.

Ike Mascarin from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (NDRRMO) said an estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the six barangays, including Nahawan, Kantuyok, Villaflor, Bacani, Ihan, and Uob.

Mayor Allen Ray Piezas of Clarin facilitated the evacuation to the Cultural Center in the town.

Government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also released aid to the affected barangays and provided food to the residents evacuated.

Several health stations were also opened.

Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto said the group was reportedly hiding in a cave in Barangay Bacani following the encounter in Inabanga last April 11.

He said the group reportedly planned on entering Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol, to disrupt the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit meetings there but was too weak to carry its operation out. Aside from this, security in the island was heightened and the group reportedly did not get support from residents.

“Weak na gyud ang ilang grupo kay wala naman ang ilang lider. Aduna say samad ang uban,” Chatto said.

Despite this positive development, Chatto urged the public to continue being vigilant.

“Be vigilant lang gyud ang katawhan, mabinantayun dili lang mukumpiyansa… ug adunay unfamiliar faces nga makit-an, i-report dayon kay anaa man ang atong kapulisan nga mo-validate sa mga information,” Chatto said.

In the same statement the AFP and PNP issued yesterday, the agencies said:

“The vigilance of the community played the vital role in thesuccess of the operations. The continuous flow of information coming from the civilian communities led the government forces to the exact location where the armed (group) was temporarily hiding. With their support, we are confident we can totally eliminate the threat in Bohol.”

At the height of the encounter yesterday, roads in Sagbayan town leading to Clarin and Inabanga were closed to avoid having motorists being caught in the crossfire.

Chatto said it is not impossible that Abu Sayyaf members from outside Bohol will attempt to rescue their comrades but assured authorities are prepared.

“Gi-presume nato nga naay mo-rescue nila nga mga kauban pero mas gipahugtan pa nato ang security ug ang ang atong intelligence unit adunay technology nga mo-trace sa ilang movements. Ang ato usab katawhan, nitabang kanato sa pag-report dayun sa mga makuhang impormasyon,” he said. (FREEMAN)

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