Two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits, including the last remaining leader involved in the Sipadan kidnapping, were killed in a clash in the hinterlands of Sulu, military officials said Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the firefight broke out around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Upper Binuang, Talipao, Sulu.
Pabayo said the firefight ensued after government troops belonging to the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion responded to reports of the ASG bandits' presence in Barangay Upper Binuang.
Pabayo said the firefight lasted for about 10 minutes and resulted in the death of ASG sub-leader Angah Ajid and another ASG follower, who was not immediately identified.
Ajid was the only remaining ASG leader involved in the kidnapping of 21 people, including 10 Europeans, on April 23, 2000 from the dive resort island of Sipadan, Sabah, Malaysia, the Army official said.
The ASG herded the hostages to the hinterlands of Sulu and were released in batches following payment of huge amount of ransom.
Pabayo said the troops also recovered an M-14 rifle, an M-16 Armalite rifle with an M-203 grenade launcher attached to it, and several rounds of ammunition.
The series of clashes in Sulu was the result of the growing support of the civilians to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he added.
“The people of Sulu are tired of the atrocities committed by the Abu Sayyaf in their communities. Your Joint Task Force Sulu will remain steadfast in fulfilling its mandate of bringing lasting peace in this part of our country,” Pabayo said.
Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the troops are "relentlessly" pursuing the ASG bandits to constrict their movement and “leaving them in despair.”
“As community support amassed, military mounts its offensives to pressure and to defeat Abu Sayyaf militants in the area,” Pabayo said.
He added: “We also attribute our accomplishments to the Suluanons who are one with us in working for peace in the province (of Sulu)." (PNA)
Photo from AP/Inquirer