Gov’t troops kill Abu leader in new clash with bandits in Bohol
CLARIN, Bohol — The smell gave them away.
A driver of a habal-habal (motorcycle for rent) became suspicious of his smelly passenger and tipped off the police about the possible presence of the members of the Abu Sayyaf who were being hunted down after their foiled attempt to set up a base in nearby Inabanga town last week.
A clash ensued, killing Joselito Melloria, a native of Inabanga town suspected of being a leader of the bandit group.
According to authorities, Melloria left Inabanga to marry the daughter of an Abu Sayyaf leader.
Police officers and military troops condoned a cave and surrounding area in Barangay Bacani where they believed the remaining seven others were in hiding.
The cave has a narrow entrance – about a meter wide, but the depth is at least seven meters.
According military officials, the cave had no connection to other caves in the town.
First clash in Inabanga
At least eight members of the Abu Sayyaf group are being hunted by the government troops more than a week after they tried to get into Barangay Napo, Inabanga town.
They were purportedly planning to set up a base there from which they could conduct terror activities in nearby provinces and disrupt the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Panglao town, Bohol.
The summit, however, already ended on Saturday.
The bandits were led by Melloria, a native of Napo who left the village a few years back to marry a daughter of an Abu Sayyaf leader.
An intense firefight ensued in Napo, during which their leader, Abu Rami, and three bandits were killed. The government also three soldiers and a policeman were killed, along with a couple in their 60s, apparently caught in the crossfire.
Pursuit operation forced the bandit group to move to Clarin, a coastal twon about 11 km from Inabanga.
Government troops, however, had a breakthrough when an Abu Sayyaf member went down to the Barangay Poblacion Centro to buy bread.
Sources in the military told the Inquirer that the Abu Sayyaf member rode a habal-habal to take him back to Barangay Bacani, a distance of about 3 km, past noon on Saturday.
But the driver noticed that his passenger was disheveled and smelly, as if he had not taken a bath for a long time.
“The passenger didn’t also speak Bol-anon, but in a different dialect,” a military officer who asked not to be identified said.
The driver dropped off his passenger at the barangay proper of Bacani and proceeded to the police station to report what he noticed.
The police then alerted the military and formed a joint team to go to Bacani.
The joint team chanced on the alleged Abu Sayyaf member who immediately ran toward the cave, which was about 150 meters away.
When burst of gunfire rang out, the seven others went out and a gunbattle ensued.
They ran to toward the mountains in an attempt hide behind trees and shrubs in the area.
While trying to fire back, Melloria was hit in the left shoulder, right chest and left temple, killing him on the spot.
His companions didn’t stop to help him but continued running.
As of 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, a pursuit operation was ongoing.
In the meantime, at least 1,000 residents were evacuated mostly from Bacani and the adjacent Barangay Nahawan to Clarin Cultural Center.
SPO4 Romel Petecio, the deputy chief of the Clarin Municipal Police Station, said personnel from the municipality came with several vehicles to take the civilians out of the area lest they would get caught in the crossfire.
Authorities also barred private vehicles form entering Barangay Nahawan. The bandits were seen fleeing towards this village from Barangay Bacani.
The Inabanga government, through its Facebook page, asked all motorists coming from the town of Talibon and are bound for Tagbilaran City via Inabanga not to proceed and instead stay within Barangay Sto. Rosario as they could be hijacked and taken as human shields by the bandit group. –With a report from Jhunnex Napallacan /atm
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