ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/30 July) – Government forces have captured the Abu Sayyaf camp in Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu where seven Marines were killed Thursday, two of them reportedly beheaded.
In a statement, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III warned the perpetrators: “Mark my words: to those of you who perpetrated this atrocity, know that you are now number one on my radar. It might take some time, but make no mistake about it: you will be brought to justice to answer for your crimes.”
The Philippine Navy’s chief, Vice-Admiral Alexander Pama, said the camp was captured on Thursday, following a four-hour battle that started at around 4:20 a.m.
Marines on patrol encountered at least 70 Abu Sayyaf bandits who were followers of Radulan Sahiron and Isnilon Hapilon, he said.
Pama said the battle site turned out to be the camp of Sahiron and Hapilon and their followers in the province of Sulu which was subsequently captured by the Marines.
He said intelligence report showed that 13 Abu Sayyaf members were killed while six others were wounded “but presumed to be a lot more since pursuit operations is still ongoing.”
“The government side prevailed on the said operation since movement of Marine troops was not initially detected and they were the first to get sight and subsequently engage the enemy which resulted to the capture of the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) camp at Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu,” Pama said in a statement.
“This encounter is expected to place a demoralizing effect and reduction of capability of ASG in Patikul area,” he added.
The hinterland of Patikul municipality serves as the hiding place of Sahiron in Sulu.
Sahiron, known as the one-armed bandit, is the oldest among the remaining Abu Sayyaf leaders while Hapilon was originally based in Basilan province but he fled to Sulu after government forces decimated the bandit group’s strength in the province.
Pama sent his deputy, Rear Admiral Orwen Cortez and Philippine Marines commandant Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero to this city to oversee the pursuit operations against the bandits and to tend to the arrangements for the slain soldiers and the medical treatment of the wounded troops.
In a six-paragraph statement issued on July 29, President Aquino said he had instructed Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin “to ensure that every possible aid and assistance is given to the families of these brave soldiers who paid the ultimate price for the defense of our security and our freedom.”
“I condemn these atrocities that are meant to put pressure on the peace process—to derail our efforts to counteract the causes of banditry, rebellion, and terrorism. Let me be very clear: those who want neither peace nor progress are the ones who perpetrated this dastardly act,” he said.
The President said he would personally extend his sympathies and condole with the families of the slain soldiers. “I will be letting them know that pursuit operations will go on, and we will not stop until all those involved are captured,” he said.
As a tribute to the soldiers, the President said they will “ redouble our efforts to attain peace. If nothing changes then their sacrifices would have been in vain. They will not be in vain. Our efforts to put in place the conditions for sustained peace and security for our people will not waver.”
He asked the public to “pause in silent tribute to the latest in the roster of selfless men and women who have given their utmost for our country.” (MindaNews)