4 Abus killed in clash with MNLF fighters PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:51

Four Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in a firefight with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters early Tuesday morning in Sulu province.

A military spokesman said the encounter happened in Jolo island amid ongoing negotiations between the ISIS-linked group and the one time rebel group for the release of some hostages.

Major Felimon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said in a statement that the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alhabsy Misaya  fought with MNLF fighters under Ali Julkipli in Kalingalang Caluang town where some hostages are being kept by the militant group.

The MNLF faction of Nur Misuari was credited for the release of 14 Indonesian hostages in two occasions — 10  on May 1 and 4 on May 11.

Tan named one of the four slain militants as Jennor Lahab, a.k.a. “Jim Dragon,”.

He said the military was able to recover high-powered firearms from slain Abu Sayyaf gunmen including a M-16 automatic rifle, two M-14 and a M-4 rifle.

The remains of the four were brought to the village of Punjungan for their families to claim.

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with Misuari on Aug. 12, during his second visit to Basilan province since he took over the presidency, according to a report Friday.

The Manila Standard quoted Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo — due to accompany Duterte — as saying the president would speak Misuari who is currently a fugitive, eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga in September 2013, in which around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

The president has repeatedly said he is eyeing to talk with Misuari to focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process that will include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It is the president’s second trip to Basilan, since visiting the area July 21 to be briefed on the army’s ongoing battle with Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in the area.

The MILF is currently involved in an ongoing peace process with the government, however a faction under Misuari considers the MILF’s 2014 peace deal a betrayal of a 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation-brokered agreement.

Misuari — who launched the siege on Zamboanga to protest the new MILF deal — is reported to be hiding in Jolo island where he is mingling with people loyal to him and protecting him from the authorities.

Duterte has repeatedly stressed he is willing to give Misuari a safe-conduct pass to start the talks between the government and the Moro rebels.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.

In March and April of this year, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 17 Indonesian sailors who were later freed although it was not clear if ransoms were paid.

Two Canadians, however — kidnapped on Samal Island resort in Davao del Norte in September 2015 with a Norwegian and Filipina — were beheaded after ransom deadlines passed.

The Abu Sayyaf group freed the Filipina hostage unharmed in June but has kept the Norwegian captive.

The group is still holding Malaysian seamen and Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, and Philippine citizens.