DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 April) — The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) minced no words in condemning the Abu Sayyaf as “cowards who have no honor and no shame” for beheading Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji, a Tausug soldier they abducted last Thursday.
In a statement late Sunday night, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said Siraji is the latest victim of “what has become a series of indiscriminate acts of terrorism by the Abu Sayyaf, killing even our fellow Bangsamoro.”
A member of the 32nd Infantry Battalion, Siraji was a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) following the signing of the Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF in 1996.
“These acts of violence, acts that go against the grain of our humanity, continuously hamper our efforts towards peace and justice within our shores. These bandits — cowards who have no honor and no shame — have betrayed the cause which our most faithful mujahideens have fought for. These terrorists have no claim to the values of Islam, nor to the brave and dignified history of our people,” Hataman said following the announcement from Joint Task Force Sulu that Siraji was beheaded.
The governor said government forces will be continuing its intensified law enforcement operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the island provinces and adjacent areas. He assured ARMM residents that the regional government “will continue to support all efforts against terrorism in the region, while ensuring the safety and welfare of our people.”
Siraji was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf at the height of the military operations against the terrorist group on Thursday morning, the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) said in a press release that evening.
Siraji was “forcibly taken by about seven persons at 9:30 a.m. when on the road to Igasan in Patikul, Sulu,” it said.
It quoted Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu as saying Siraji’s abduction “should not be a reason for us to back out but should further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims.”
WestMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., said on April 20 that it was “frustrating that a Tausug soldier who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come in his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe.”
Galvez called on Sulu residents to “join us in this fight” to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from “creating fear and havoc.”
“For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family,” he said.
Three days later, Siraji was killed.
The Westmincom has yet to issue a statement on Siraji’s death. It has also not issued a press release on the operations in Lanao del Sur allegedly against the Maute group. (MindaNews)