Fighting rages in Basilan, troops shell Abu positions PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 08 July 2016 13:16

Fighting raged for the second day Thursday in Basilan as government troops advanced on three villages occupied by Abu Sayyaf militants.

The army offensive began Wednesday with heavy shelling of Abu Sayyaf  positions followed by slow ground movement by troops closing in on the group of  wanted militants Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon, according to Richard Falcatan, dxNO station manager.

Falcatan, who joined a government convoy to Tipo-Tipo town Thursday, said the town center is deserted as soldiers tried to penetrate three outlying villages raided by the IS-linked group.

The village chief of Baguindan, one of the villages affected, was quoted by Falcatan as saying that the howitzer shelling has destroyed houses,rubber trees and infrastructure projects.

Mass evacuation was reported Thursday morning and classes were suspected in all schools.

Falcatan said there is no report on casualties and the military is silent on the Tipo-Tipo fighting as helicopter gunships took off  Thursday from the Edwin Andrews Air Base in nearby Zamboanga City and headed for Basilan, one of the two strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf in the south.

Isnilon Hapilon is the acknowledged leader of the Abu Sayyaf faction based in Basilan. He is wanted by the U.S. government with $5 million reward for the kidnapping in 2001 of couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero.

Sobero was beheaded the  Aby Sayyaf and Martin was killed in a crossfire during a rescue operation.