Sulu ambush fatalities surge to 23; Abu Sayyaf drug addicts suspected

ISABELA CITY, Basilan (MindaNews / 29 July) – Fatalities in last Monday’s ambush by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu have risen to 23 as the police suspected that the perpetrators could only be drug addicts.

Chief Supt. Noel delos Reyes, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said that two more died at a hospital in Zamboanga City earlier today. Nine were wounded in the Talipao ambush, he added.

The police official said that a person in his right mind would not shoot on women and children. Many of those killed were women while the youngest was a nine-month-old baby, Delos Reyes added.

He said they are saddened that the ambush was staged in “one of the holiest moments” of Islam, citing that the victims were on the way to the mosque to pray as they were celebrating Eid’l Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.

“That is why I am inclined to believe they are into drugs,” Delos Reyes said of the Abu Sayyaf suspects.

The victims were among 40 people aboard two vehicles when around 50 Abu Sayyaf members ambushed them in Barangay Lower Talipao in Talipao town, according to Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) information officer. The armed men were reportedly led by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisih.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary and also head of the ARMM- Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM-HEART), expressed concern over the “massacre-style killing” in Sulu.

She described the incident as a “crazy, cruel world” where the victims were mostly women and children during one of Islam’s holiest holidays.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Sulu Gov. Abdusakur II Tan have strongly condemned the attack and vowed justice to the victims.

Delos Reyes disclosed that he augmented the police force of Talipao to ensure the maintenance of law and order in the area. He said pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf are ongoing, spearheaded by the Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade.

He said Brig. Gen. Orlando de Leon, WestMinCom deputy commander, has been sent to Sulu to oversee the pursuit operations. (With reports from Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)