7 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Basilan

Roel Pareño - Philstar.com

BASILAN, Philippines - A leader of the Abu Sayyaf group and six members surrendered with their firearms on Thursday to the military, officials said.

The group led by Sulaiman Kasaran initially yielded to Lt. Col. Enerito Lebeco on Monday at Sitio Camalig, Barangay Bohe Pahu, Ungkaya Pukan town following negotiation with the government forces, according to Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista, chief of the 104th Army Brigade.

Kasaran and six of his followers, three of them are his sons, were presented in a formal surrender ceremony at the 104th Brigade headquarter in Barangay Tabiawan.

“This the first time members of the Abu Sayyaf surrendered with their intention to be integrated with mainstream of society,” Bautista said. 

Kasaran and his followers became supporters of Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri and Furuji Indama after they were forced to join the group due to clan war or “rido.”

The military said the Kasarans have long been in feud with the Malatin clan supported by the late Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) local leader Umbong Malatin based in Barangay Kuhon, Al-Barka town. 

The long time rido between the two clans has also resulted to the death of former leaders Bashir and Lukman Kasaran. 

Kasaran said they decided to join the group for protection against enemies.

The group had undergone trainings on making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and were taught about Islamic radicalism and military tactics. 

However, the group decided to surrender after the Task Force Kasanyangan through the support of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) settled warring clans last November.

Kasaran said this initiative led them to consider surrendering to the government so that they can return to normal lives without fear of being apprehended.

“Gusto namin na mamuhay ng normal, makapunta sa lungsod yong mga bata ko na walang pangambang maaresto,” Kasaran said. 

He added he wanted his twin sons to finish their education

“Ang pagpunta namin sa Abu Sayyaf ay dahil wala kaming mapuntahan para sa suporta dahil sa away,” Kasaran said. 

Kasaran, a former soldier assigned at the 4th Army Division, admitted that joining the Abu Sayyaf group was an unwise decision.

Maj. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, chief of 1st Army Division, said they have checked the records of the Kasarans and found no legal impediment nor indication that they were directly involved in any terrorist activity.

“This is the first time we see in the situation that we did not expect that through peaceful means, we can end the scourge of terrorism,” Barrientos said. 

“Bihira ang situation na ito while it is normal for the NPA (New People's Army) to surrender, but this is different. We hope others would follow,” he added. 

Barrientos also urged the local government units to help rebel returnees to be integrated back into the mainstream society. 

The police and military also assured former Abu Sayyaf members of their security.

“Para sa akin, I'm no longer afraid because I can approach the authorities already without fear,” Kasaran said when asked about their security. 

He said they are also willing to assist the government in identifying hardcore Abu Sayyaf members.

Kasaran and his followers yielded with them four M16 rifles, a garrand rifle, one grenade launcher and a caliber .45 pistol.

The government also extended financial livelihood assistance to help rebel returnees in the integration. 

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