ARMY DROPS THE HAMMER: KILLS 8 IN ABU SAYYAF BOMBING OPERATIONS
Eight were confirmed dead, and 20 had been injured, after the military forces began pulverizing the terrorist lair of Abu Sayyaf Group last Saturday.
Maj. Arvin John Encinas, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the assault was launched at 6 a.m. in Sitio Tatak, Barangay Tugal, Sultan in Barongis, Maguindanao.
Two Air Force FA50 bombers dropped eight 250-pound bombs on the lair of the ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Encinas said that surgical air, artillery and ground operations were launched against the identified and confirmed location of BIFF sub-leader Salahuddin Hasan alias “Orak.”
“He (Hasan) is under the BIFF-Abu Toraife faction, which is believed to be behind the two separate bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat in September last year,” he said.
Even how far, the air and ground bombardment could be heard by residents in Tulunan and M’lang in North Cotabato as well as Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.
Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Commander of Joint Task Force Central, said Hasan was among those wounded.
Based on reports, he said that foreign terrorists in the camp included a Jemaah Islamiya operative Muhammad Ali bin Abd Al-Rahman, alias Mauwiya, two Indonesians, two Arabs, two Malaysians and Abu Toraype, leader of the Daulah Islamiya Toraype Group.
Sobejana said the bombing was so intense that the terrorists had to scamper out of their camp, where they were surrounded by government troops, who got them engaged in a four-hour battle.
“There were about 70 to 100 fighters in a wide area of the encampment when they were hit by air strikes and ground shelling,” Sobejana said.
Before the air and ground strikes, the terrorists were planning to launch terror attacks on still undetermined targets, Sobejana said.
The assault was launched after Gani Saligan, brigade commander of the BIFF under the Karialan faction led by Ustadz Karialan, a.k.a. Imam Minimbang, surrendered to the military on Friday and had disclosed the location of the camp.
Earlier, government troops engaged 100 Abu Sayyaf Group bandits under their sub-leader, Hatib Sawadjaan, in Patikul, Sulu, killing three terrorists, including their sub-leader Idang Susukan.
Five soldiers died while 18 others were wounded in the attack.
The Army said the situation in Mindanao remained volatile, but despite the casualties it incurred, it is determined to continue its effort to crush the terrorists.
“We would like to remind everyone that terrorism is real and remains a clear and present danger. Hence, we urge everybody to help and join in our effort to address this phenomenal threat,” the Army said in a statement.
On Sunday, medals were awarded to members of the Scout Rangers who were wounded in the battle with the Abu Sayyaf.
Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, handed out medals to wounded personnel.
Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command information officer, said, troops of the Army’s 5th, Scout Ranger Battalion led by Lt. Col. Marlo Jomalesa engaged some 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan for almost two hours.
He said the troops are tracking down the whereabouts of the remaining ISIS-inspired bandits.
The President’s order to pulverize the Abu Sayyaf came after the bomb attack on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu.
Two successive blasts killed at least 22 people, including five soldiers, a coast guard personnel and left more than 100 people wounded.
Earlier this day, the local terrorist tagged as the prime suspect behind the twin explosions that killed 23 people and injured more than 90 others in Jolo, Sulu, and four of his accomplices has surrendered to authorities, the country's top policeman said.
Philippine National Police Chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde announced Monday that Kamah L. Pae or "Kamah" and four other members of the Ajang Ajang group behind the attack in Jolo, surrendered to the military and was turned over to the police last weekend. The four accomplices were identified as Albaji Kisae Gadjali, Rajan Bakil Gadjali, Kaisar Bakil Gadjali and Salir Alih.
Albayalde clarified however, that Kamah has not yet admitted his hand in the attack.
"Forced surrender kasi [because] he was being hunted down," the chief said.
The police said Kamah is the brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf member and part of the Ajang Ajang group, which operates under the Abu Sayyaf.
Albayalde said Kamah has been a long-standing threat to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. He surmised that the attack in the church took nearly a year of planning before it was carried out.
"Matagal nang pinaplano 'yan. Almost a year already," the chief said.
The chief said, Kamah had conspired with foreign terrorist-intelligentsia—particularly Indonesian couple whom Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier tagged as the suicide bombers who detonated the explosives.
Albayalde called the bombing an "act of terror", explaining that local terrorist groups perpetrate attacks to receive funds from ISIS. He added that the Jolo attack was possibly a means to turn the long contrasts between Muslims and Christians into an extreme conflict.
"Isang [One] objective is targeting the church for Christians and Muslims to fight, to create chaos and terror," the chief said.
Albayalde said Kamah will be escorted to the Sulu provincial prosecutor's office to have the necessary criminal charges filed against him.
Photo from Tempo