Three more members of insurgent group killed as troops continue combing operations
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Manila: At least a thousand residents of a coastal village in Bohol were evacuated following heavy clashes between government forces and remnants of an Abu Sayyaf faction that landed in Bohol last week.
According to the island’s governor, Edgar Chatto, authorities were forced to evacuate residents of the coastal village of Clarin to keep them safe and ensure that the surviving members of the Western Mindanao-based terror group were isolated from the populace.
“All roads that could be used as possible escape routes are closed and residents have been evacuated to the Clarin Cultural Centre,” Chatto said while adding that he had advised residents not to panic since the terrorists had already been contained in a small area.
On April 11, government troops, acting upon information from members of the community in the village of Napo, in Inabanga, confirmed the presence of at least 12 armed men (not 60 as earlier reported) believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf, who came up the river on three small boats.
The Abu Sayyaf band, which is deemed to have arrived from Sulu, is believed to have been led by Muammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami. The operation was the first conducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, a predominantly Christian area in the Central Visayas region. Askali, who was suspected to be among those responsible for the beheading of two kidnapped Caucasians last year, was killed during the initial stages of the Bohol incursion.
Government forces pursued the Abu Sayyaf band and killed six of the terrorists besides Askali. Four troopers were killed in the encounters.
Soldiers continue to pursue the insurgents and, on Saturday, three more members of the group that landed in Bohol were killed.
Among those killed was Joselito Melloria, who was believed to have acted as a guide for the Abu Sayyaf with respect to their plans to conduct terror activities in Bohol.
Regional police director, Chief Superintendent Noli Talino, said the latest round of fighting started at around 12 noon on Saturday in Clarin. “We believe that the group are remnants of the Abu Sayyaf band that landed in Inabanga earlier,” he said.
Talino said that the Abu Sayyaf had planned to carry out kidnappings and other terror activities around the time of the 10th Asean and Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) Trade Negotiating Committee and Related Meetings at the Hennan Resort in Panglao, Bohol.
The event was held from April 19 to 21.
Bohol was at one time infested with communist rebels of the New Peoples Army. In 2014, the government declared that the island had been eradicated of the insurgents. The recent incursion by the Abu Sayyaf is the first time that the presence of the terror group has been reported on the island.