Abu Sayyaf leader believed dead is still alive, says intel officer
MANILA, Philippines—Isnilon Hapilon, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, has in all likelihood survived a gunshot wound on the belly, a military intelligence source told the Inquirer Saturday.
“I think he is still alive. If he had died, then news of it would have spread already. But even our sources tell us it’s negative,” said the source, a high ranking officer who requested anonymity.
But the intelligence source said the soldier who took the shot was certain that he hit Hapilon during an encounter between government troops and Abu Sayyaf fighters last Wednesday in Barangay Kamamburingan in the municipality of Ungkaya Pukan in Basilan.
Hapilon has a $5 million bounty on his head as one of the most wanted terrorists under the US Rewards for Justice.
Hapilon was involved in the 2001 Dos Palmas kidnappings, in which three of the 20 victims were American citizens Gracia and Martin Burnham and Guillermo Sobero. Sobero was beheaded while Martin Burnham was killed during a rescue operation in June 2002.
Hapilon had been injured several times in encounters with government troops but managed to survive.
The intelligence source said that if Hapilon dies, it would be a “huge blow” to the Abu Sayyaf.
Hapilon is known as the “Emir of Basilan,” the religious head of all Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. Most of the terror group’s members in the area are Hapilon’s relatives.
Moreover, there is a power struggle within the ASG itself, the source said. Hapilon and Furuji Indama are at odds with another Abu Sayyaf leader, Nur Hassan Jamiri.
“Leadership and power struggle is the cause of their fight but whenever there are military operations, they band together. If Hapilon dies, the groups led by Indama and Hassan will split up for sure,” the source said.
A series of clashes between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf have taken place in Basilan and Sulu recently. Among those killed was a promising young Marine lieutenant, Roger Flores.
The military source said the intelligence community has gotten wind of plans by the Abu Sayyaf to sow terror in Davao City, Cotabato City, and General Santos City in retaliation for the raid on the bomb factory of Abdul Basit Usman in Maguindanao last June.
President Aquino himself had warned Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of the possible attacks, prompting the latter to place his area on high alert.
“Supposedly they would plant car bombs, but they [Abu Sayyaf] are still at the planning stage,” the source said.
Usman, who carries a $1-million reward for information leading to his arrest, escaped arrest during the June 10 raid. Government troops arrested his wife and three others.
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