‘Tired’ Abu Sayyaf members surrender to Philippine military

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
‘Tired’ Abu Sayyaf members surrender to Philippine military Militants identified as former members of the Abu Sayyaf Group take an oath of allegiance to the Philippine government following a ceremonial surrender of their weapons in Jolo, Sulu province, July 30, 2022.
[Nickee Butlangan/AFP]

Ten members of the Abu Sayyaf Group extremist group have surrendered to government forces in the southern Philippines in recent days rather than risk being killed in a counter-militant offensive, military officials said Tuesday.

Since January, 174 Abu Sayyaf suspects have turned themselves in to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the south, including about 40 non-combatants who were providing logistical support to the group, the military said. 

The overall strength of the Abu Sayyaf Group is believed to have fallen to 130 active fighters in ASG’s strongholds on the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo, the military has also said. 

“The former ASG members revealed that due to their group’s weakened manpower and capability, they just have to run and hide from the government forces. They grew tired, thus, they surrendered,” said Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu.

Seven of the Abu Sayyaf members surrendered to the task force on Friday, turning in six automatic rifles and a handgun.

Three other militants who were allegedly involved in attacks against government troops in the towns of Sumisip, Tipo-tipo and Al-Barka surrendered on Basilan island on the same day. The three – identified as Bero Ankun (alias Abu Bero), Ridwan Jikiri (alias Abu Paruk) and Abdulgani Radjuli (alias Ganih) – turned over two rifles, two magazines and 21 rounds of ammunition.

The military will be relentless in pursuing and catching “the remaining terrorists who are still out there, afraid and confused,” said Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, the acting head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Founded in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf Group, or “Bearers of the Sword,” is the smallest and most violent of Muslim militant groups in the southern Philippines. It allied itself with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, and carried out large-scale attacks, including bombings and kidnappings of missionaries and foreigners.

Later, it shifted allegiance to the Islamic State and one of its commanders, Isnilon Hapilon, emerged as a regional leader. He would lead hundreds of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fighters in sacking the southern city of Marawi, during a militant siege that lasted five months in 2017.

Hapilon, who was killed at the end of a long-running battle in Marawi, was succeeded by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose operations were based largely in Jolo. Sawadjaan masterminded the bombing of a Catholic church in January 2019 where an Indonesian couple who strapped bombs to their bodies killed themselves and 21 others, Philippine officials said. 

Military intelligence officials have said they believe that Sawadjaan was killed in a July 2020 shootout. While authorities never recovered his body, Sawadjaan has not been heard from since.


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