‘We’ll hunt them day and night’
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - April 11, 2016 - 10:00am

AFP kills 4 more Abus

MANILA, Philippines - Four Abu Sayyaf members were killed in renewed fighting last weekend in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan as military reinforcements conducting pursuit operations hit hard at the militants that earlier gunned down 18 soldiers, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said soldiers clashed with the bandits Sunday in Barangay Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town.

The latest killings brought to 13 the death toll of the Abu Sayyaf since fighting started last Saturday. Five bandits were earlier killed.

“The death of four Abu Sayyaf is in line with continuing operations against the bandit group in Basilan as per directive from the top military leadership,” Padilla said, adding that scores of bandits were wounded.

Additional troops from the AFP’s elite anti-terror force, the Light Reaction Company (LRC), and the Army Scout Rangers were dispatched to Basilan to help track down the bandits led by Isnilon Hapilon and Furuji Indama.

AFP chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri has ordered the troops to conduct sustained operations against the enemy.

“We have deployed additional troops to the island. Day and night we will go after these bandits,” an informed military source said.

Aside from Basilan-based units, troops from Sulu were also deployed to go after the Abu Sayyaf involved in kidnap for ransom operations in the region and in Sabah.

Informed sources said that last Sunday’s fighting broke out when dozens of Abu Sayyaf members were trying to recover the body of a Moroccan terrorist, Mohammad Khattab, who was killed during the encounter with government troops the previous day.

The bandits killed 18 soldiers and wounded 56 others during clashes last Saturday. Some were reportedly beheaded.

Khattab, passing himself off as an Islamic preacher, had been the conduit between the homegrown terrorists in Mindanao and Middle East-based international network, until the troops finally caught up with him in Basilan.

He was killed during the clash with elements of the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion (IB).

Sources said pursuing troops prevented the bandits from retrieving the body of Khattab.

The remains of the Moroccan terrorist are now in military custody and would be buried in accordance with Muslim burial rites.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said operations are continuing against Radullan Sahiron, Indama and their gang.

“The operation is continuous and there is no letup in going after the Abu Sayyaf group,” Tan said.

The military said the killing of Khattab has apparently preempted possible bombings and stopped the training of local bomb makers of the Abu Sayyaf.

Khattab was one of two foreign terrorists based in Basilan.

His companion, Malaysian bomb expert Mohammad Najib Hussein alias Abu Anas, was killed last Dec. 15 in Al-Barka, Basilan.

“We preempted possibility of bombing attack because we neutralized Mohammad Khattab. He could no longer pass on his terroristic trade craft,” Tan said. 

Tan said they could not confirm if Khattab and Hapilon are espousing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

President Aquino directed the military to go after the Abu Sayyaf in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday that the President gave the instructions to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Iriberri during their meeting in Malacañang last Sunday evening.

“Both officials informed the President that, in accordance with his instructions, pursuit operations are still being conducted and that the troops are fully equipped and adequately supported,” Coloma told Palace reporters.

Gazmin and Iriberri briefed Aquino on the progress of the continuing operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements in Basilan after the military officials returned from Zamboanga City.

Mourning

Mourning relatives and friends attended the homecoming of Army Lt. Remigio Licenia, 28, one of the 18 fallen troops in Basilan.

Licenia was a former teacher at the Rang Ayan National High School before he was commissioned in the military and became a member of the Army’s 44th IB.

Supt. Manuel Bringas, Ilagan City police chief, said Licenia served as a barrio teacher in a local public school for two years before he entered the Army as a commissioned officer.

The other soldiers killed in Basilan were: ?Staff/Sgt. Makin Jarani?, Sgt. Akmad Usman, ?Sgt. Paterno Oquino?, Sgt. Jayson Alani?, Corporals Redel Perolino?, Reezvi Archcelo Gandawali?, Rodelio Bangcairin?, Noel Else?, Dionisio Labial?, Rakib Kadil, Daruis Bulan and Ibrahim Palao?, Privates First Class Doren Aspurias?, Marjun Duhaylungsod?, Marjohn Monte? and Kevin Rey Verano?, and Private Dunemark Gil Saldivar.

Six of the 18 slain soldiers who were Muslims were brought to the mosque inside the Westmincom headquarters and their remains sent to their respective families for traditional Muslim burial rites.

The remains of the other soldiers were brought to the private funeral parlor and placed inside metal caskets before transport to their hometowns aboard military trucks.

The remains of Lt. Liceña were transported via a C-130 military cargo plane last Sunday night to Isabela.

The Army belied reports yesterday that military honors due to dead soldiers killed in action in Basilan have been cancelled.

“We deny it,” Col. Benjamin Hao, Army spokesman said in reference to reports that the slain soldiers were not given honors.

Hao said that instructions from the Army leadership were very clear to render full honors, especially the arrival and departure honors, to all the fallen troopers.

However, Hao said that in the case of Muslim soldiers, they were immediately buried based on their culture and practices.

In fact, in the absence of a regular flight, a C-130 cargo plane was even dispatched to fly the two bodies of Tausug soldiers to Sulu for burial the other day.

“But for the rest, we will give them honors because they deserve it. They fought gallantly for our nation. Giving them the appropriate military honors is the least we can do for them,” Hao said.

He added that the Army would start releasing the initial benefits today to the families of the fallen soldiers.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who is from Sumisip, Basilan also mourned the death of the soldiers.

“We mourn their deaths and pray for the recovery of the soldiers who sustained gunshot wounds and blast injuries during the encounter,” said Hataman, chairman of the regional peace and order council.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad expressed disappointment over the death of 18 soldiers during the encounter with the Abu Sayyaf.

“It is very depressing when our government forces are seemingly defeated with 18 soldiers as casualties,” said Jumoad, who has been the Basilan bishop since Jan. 10, 2002.  – With Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Roel Pareño, Raymund Catindig, John Unson

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