Military frees village from Abu Sayyaf
AL BARKA, Basilan—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 from the grip of the bandit group.
A similarly massive operation was also being conducted in Sulu, where the bandit group has been known to operate.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, while becoming emotional over the displacements and the destruction of civilian properties, sought for understanding from those who fled, particularly from Barangay Macalang.
What was important, he said, was that the village was now free of Abu Sayyaf bandits and that no civilian had been killed or hurt in the operation.
“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 Lajid 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. Displaced, yes. Some are temporarily housed in school, multipurpose halls and the rest with their relatives and friends,” Lajid 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 military operation, Barrientos said, ended with the seizure of an Abu Sayyaf camp located in Sitio Bohe Libi and Sitio Bohe Buug. He said the camp had about 28 structures, including 10 dug-in bunkers, which could accommodate up to 15 persons each. The whole camp could accommodate 250 persons, he said.
To ensure that the areas will not fall anew into the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, Hataman said the government was working with the liberated communities and the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post 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, said he was hoping the joint endeavor could “come up with a mechanism that could 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 spread 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 Inquirer that Marine soldiers under Lt. Col. Wilfredo Manalang “hit” some 40 bandits in Patikul town.
Dela Cruz said no soldier was harmed in the incident that took place in Barangay Liang around 8:10 a.m.
He said only one 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. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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