Village in Al Barka, Basilan, finally freed from Abu Sayyaf — military
AL BARKA, Basilan, Philippines — The week-long gun battle here that started on Sunday last week left over two dozen people killed – three of them soldiers – and triggered the mass evacuation of some 2,000 families from various villages.
But military and civilian officials said the aftermath of the massive military operation against the Abu Sayyaf resulted in the liberation of at least one village — Barangay Macalang — from the grip of the bandit group.
A similarly massive operation has also been launched in Sulu, where the bandit group has been known to operate.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), while becoming emotional over the displacements and the destruction of civilian properties, sought for understanding from those who fled, particularly from the village of Macalang.
What is important is the village is now free of Abu Sayyaf bandits and that no civilian had been killed or hurt in the operation, according to Hataman.
“I became so emotional because we have so many people whose houses were destroyed by (artillery) fire but I assure them that the national – and even the regional government – will rehabilitate whatever was destroyed,” Hataman said.
Al Barka Mayor Darussalam Ladjid said about 9,000 people fled the villages of Dinapa, Linuan, Kailih, Macalang and Ginanta.
Most of the houses in Macalang were destroyed by air and ground assault.
“We are fortunate because no one from the civilian side got hurt, displacement yes. Some are temporarily housed in school, multipurpose halls and the rest with their relatives and friends,” Ladjid said.
Maj. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said of the death toll, 25 were Abu Sayyaf bandits. The 26th slain enemy, he said, was Malaysian jihadist, Mohammad Hussein Najib.
Barrientos admitted it took them more than a week to secure Macalang from the control of the Abu Sayyaf but it was worth it, despite the three deaths among the military operatives and the wounding of 26 others.
The week-long military operation, Barrientos said, ended with the seizure of an Abu Sayyaf encampment that could accommodate 250 persons. The encampment, he said, had more or less 28 structures, including 10 dug-in bunkers measuring 5x6x7 feet, which could accommodate up to 15 persons each.
These were all located in Sitio Bohe Libi and Sitio Bohe Buug, he said.
To ensure that the areas would not fall anew into the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, Hataman said the government has been working with the liberated communities and the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP) to be manned by local government representatives, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and members of the International Monitoring Team.
Brig. Gen. Glenn Macasero, chair of the government ceasefire committee, expressed hope the joint endeavor could “come up with mechanism that can safeguard and make the places hostile to the Abu Sayyaf Group.”
Hadji Dan Asnawi, commander of the 114th Base Command of the MILF here, described the Abu Sayyaf as a virus that spreads and destroy good relationship between the government and the MILF.
In Sulu, at least five Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed on Tuesday as the military continued its combat operation there.
Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Marine soldiers under Lt. Col. Wilfredo Manalang “hit” a large group of some 40 bandits in Patikul town.
Dela Cruz said no soldier was harmed in the encounter that took place in Barangay Liang around 8:10 a.m.
Dela Cruz said only one dead body belonging to a still unidentified bandit had been recovered, along with seven assault rifles of various caliber, ammunition, two motorbikes and other items.
“This is a continuing operation aimed at the defeat of the Abu Sayyaf and also to safely rescue all their kidnap victims,” he said. SFM
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