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Abu Sayyaf ‘founder’ held in Tawi-Tawi

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Sunday said joint police and military troops on Saturday arrested a supposed founding member of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Tawi-Tawi.

The arrest of Ustadz Ahmadsali Asmad Badron, also known as Ammad and Hamad Ustadz Idris, came two days after heavily armed bandits figured in firefights with the Scout Rangers in the hinterlands of nearby Basilan Island.

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The military reported that at least nine Abu Sayyaf members were killed during the daylong skirmish.

Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., CIDG chief, said Badron was arrested based on an arrest warrant for six counts of kidnapping in a house in Barangay Lamion, Bongao town, at around 8:50 a.m.

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Pagdilao said Badron was a cousin of the late Abu Sayyaf leader Nadzme Sabtula, alias Commander Global. He said the suspect also acted as “bagman” and “facilitator” of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

“Badron is one of the original members of the Abu Sayyaf … [He] was formerly under the command of the late Abu Sayyaf head, Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot,” Pagdilao said in a statement.

“He was involved in the kidnapping of tourists and resort staff in Sipadan, Malaysia, and members of the religious group Jehovah’s Witness in Jolo in 2000 and 2003,” he added.

Pagdilao said the arrest was carried out by the CIDG regional agents, the Philippine Center on Transnational Crimes, the 84th Special Action Force unit, Marine Battalion Landing Team 5, Naval Intelligence Service Group for Western Mindanao, Tawi-Tawi provincial police office and the police Regional Intelligence Unit 15.

Senior Superintendent Edgar Danao, CIDG-Region 9 chief, described Badron as “among the trusted members” of the bandit group who was assigned to keep “millions of pesos in ransom money they collected from their operations. ”

Danao said the suspect was believed to be a “Jemaah Islamiyah facilitator” to the foreign members of the Abu Sayyaf identified as Maweyah, Qaem, Dulmatin and a Palestinian named Yusef.

He said Badron was also the contact of Ibni Akosta and Tuan Muktar, the purported local operatives of JI in Mindanao.

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“They are the contact persons of Hata Haipe or Ustadz Tuan Awliayah in Malaysia, [who was arrested] in 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, and other Palestinian nationals belonging to the radical group Hamas under Yusef, who is a supporter of al-Qaida in southern Philippines,” Danao said.

Schoolroom-burning

In Zamboanga City, suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits burned the two-room kindergarten building of Tipo-tipo Central Elementary School in Basilan on Sunday dawn.

Major General Rainier Cruz, chief of the Army’s First Division, said the burning of the school was meant to ease the military’s pressure against the bandit group in the neighboring town of Sumisip, site of recent clashes that left 10 soldiers killed. Tipo-Tipo town is about 5 kilometers away from Sumisip.

Cruz said no one was reported hurt and that villagers helped extinguish the fire.

Colonel Arthur Ang, commander of the 104th Brigade, also said the burning of the school was meant “to divert our troops who are pursuing the lawless elements in Sumisip.”

“They were also hoping they can inflict harm by ambushing our troops who might be responding to the burning this dawn,” Ang added.

Before Sunday noon, Ang said he received an assurance from Tipo-tipo Mayor Ingatun Estarul that there would be classes today as only two rooms were affected by the fire.

Col. Ramon Yogyog, chief of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Basilan, said they could not “easily identify” those behind the burning of the school due to the “absence of law enforcers in the area.”

Operations against the bandit group continue in Sumisip, Ang said. “We believe they are just there, hiding in the mountainous areas of Sumisip,” Ang said.

But Yogyog said “there was a lull” in the fighting. “We pulled out our troops to secure back the perimeters of the cooperative plantations, especially those cooperatives that received regular threats from the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he said. He said the government troops were on a “resupply mode.”

But their intelligence gathering in the area has been intensified with help from the villagers, he said.

On Thursday last week, 10 soldiers were killed and 17 others were wounded in a clash with armed men who were harassing rubber plantation workers in Sumisip town. A wire report said the military was deploying 600 Army soldiers to hunt down the gunmen who killed the soldiers.

Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), acting on their own, might retaliate after the reported death of three members of the Asnawi family.

Dan Laksaw Asnawi, a commander of the MILF in Basilan, is a brother of Hassan and Nurham Asnawi, who were reportedly killed in the clashes. Jumaidi Asnawi, a son of Hassan, was also reported killed in last week’s clashes.

Cabangbang said 13 bandits were killed in the Sumisip clash.

But Jerry Aklamin, a member of the Basilan-based human rights group Kahapan, said only three bandits, none of them members of the Asnawi clan, were killed.

But he said some members of the Asnawi clan were wounded.

Taha Katoh, manager of Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative Inc., told the Inquirer that only four bandits, including former cooperative workers Wims Wakil and Juhair Bottong, were killed in the clashes.

Cabangbang, in defending his figures, said it could be that Katoh “only recognized four of those killed, not necessarily claiming that only four were killed.” With a report from AP

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