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Abu Sayyaf manhunt ongoing in Bohol

Manhunt operations are being conducted in Brgy. Matin-ao, Nan-od Sierra Bullones, Jagna, and Clabacita, Bohol for the five remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf Group still at large, following a deadly clash with government forces in Inabanga last week. Government forces are confident that ongoing operations will be over by the end of today, 17 April 2017.

The AFP and PNP have confined the area affected by armed engagements. Combined augmentation forces of Philippine Navy, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine National Police were earlier deployed in the area to contain the armed engagement and to neutralize the threat elements.

The slain bandits were identified as Jubail Umar (alias Umayr), a follower of slain regional terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir (alias Marwan) who was killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015; Edimar Isnain, allegedly a trained bomber from Brgy. Lab in Patikul, Sulu; Alpin Abbis Muharani, a relative of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group leader Radulan Sahiron; Hajan Astig, also a relative Sahiron; Husain Padog of Patikul, Sulu. Earlier identified was Muammar Askali (alias Abu Rami), an ASG sub-leader and occasional spokesperson responsible for the kidnapping and beheading of hostages foreign nationals in 2015.

Possible local collusion

Authorities have cited the reports given by local children who sighted the terrorist contingent as they arrived in Bohol via boats upriver on 10 April 2017. Residents of Inabanga also later reported that the heavily armed men were purportedly welcomed into three houses owned by the reportedly Muslim converts (Balik Islam) in the community.

Local couple Constancio Petalco (65 years old) and wife Crisenta were among the bodies recovered during the clearing operations. Authorities are investigating the couple’s involvement with the ASG, as Petalco’s nephew, Joselito Melloria, had been seen by residents escorting the group in the area.

Last 13 April 2017, during the continuous clearing operations, one unidentified dead body (male) in a state of decomposition was recovered by the government troops in the vicinity of Brgy. Lonay Cainsican, Inabanga, Bohol. The evening before, 12 April 2017, Melloria, sporting light wounds on his back and leg, asked if they can borrow a pump boat from local resident Nihansa Corsino.

Corsino revealed that he saw seven heavily armed men with Melloria and a dead comrade. Melloria asked for a shovel and, together with the others, buried their fallen comrade in a shallow grave just a few meters from Corsino’s house. Accordingly, the house of Corsino was near a cave which is owned by the family of Melloria. The armed group also asked for food, and Corsino obliged, bringing them cooked rice and cans of sardines. At 10:00 p.m. of the same day, Corsino and his family fled their house and alerted the local police of Inabanga about the buried ASG member. The body has been turned over to military custody.

With the other terrorists on the loose, it is expected that there are local Boholanos harboring them and have assisted in their escape out of the island.