Sayyaf tagged in extortion letters
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Extortion letters attributed to the bandit group Abu Sayyaf are circulating again in Basilan, indicating that the armed group with links to the international terror network al-Qaida is active again, authorities said yesterday.
Col. Ramon Yogyog, Basilan’s Special Operations Task Force commander, said plantation cooperatives, prominent business personalities, establishments, contractors and government offices have received the extortion letters.
The letters were signed by personalities known to be leaders of the Abu Sayyaf.
Yogyog said if establishments and businessmen refuse to give in to the demands of the Abu Sayyaf, “their properties are initially subjected to harassment and attacks as some kind of warning.”
He cited the recent burning of provincial government-owned trucks being used for a road construction project in Baiwas village in Sumisip town. “The governor refused to give in to the P2-million extortion demand,” Yogyog said.
Basilan provincial engineer Tahir Latip said that after the attack, all government-owned pieces of property were pulled out from the towns, except in Maluso, Lantawan and the cities of Lamitan and Isabela.
The Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative Inc., a group of farmers, has also received an extortion letter, demanding P100,000 in monthly “protection” money.
The letter was addressed to the cooperative chair, Ataran Pantasan, and its manager, Taha Katoh.
Senior Supt. Allan Nazarro, police chief of Basilan’s Isabela City, said at least 10 business establishments had received extortion letters as well.
“We have been coordinating with them,” said Nazarro. He said policemen were sent to go on patrol to secure the establishments that received extortion letters. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao