ZAMBOANGA CITY: Military officers in Mindanao presented seven alleged Abu Sayyaf rebels who surrendered recently in Basilan where security forces are pursuing the jihadist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Major General Gerardo Barrientos, Jr. commander of the 1st Infantry Division and anti-terror Joint Task Group ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) said the rebels surrendered to Colonel Rolando Joselito Bautista, Philippine Army commander in Basilan, in two batches on January 18 and 19.
The rebels were identified as Sulaiman Kasaran, Marwin Asan Kasaran, Derwin Asan Kasaran, Halid Asan Kasaran, Hadzmin Kuluman Kasaran, Faisal Laudmin Kasaran and Salman Najallon Kasaran.
They were all from Camalig village, Ungkaya Pukan town in Basilan, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The rebels admitted they realized that fighting the government and enduring hard life in the mountains is a lost cause. They also turned over their weapons – four automatic rifles, a grenade launcher and a pistol.
Bautista said the surrender was made possible through the help of the populace and local government of Ungkaya Pukan.
“The Abu Sayyaf members successively surrendered on Monday and Tuesday and subsequently underwent custodial debriefing. They will be duly endorsed to ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman for rehabilitation and integration into the mainstream of our society,” Bautista said.
It was not immediately known whether the rebels would be criminally charged or pardoned, but the Aquino government has made no peace offer or amnesty to the Abu Sayyaf.
Recently, the Abu Sayyaf with leader– Isnilon Hapilon – renewed their pledge of allegiance to ISIS.
In a propaganda video they released and picked up by international and local media, more than two dozen gunmen – including child warriors –were seen hiking in the hinterlands in Basilan and chanting “Dawlah Islamiyah (Islamic State)”. After which they recited an Arabic script of bayah or pledge of allegiance.
Hapilon, alias Abu Abdullah, was named the new leader of Harakatul Islamiyah (Islamic Movement), a new name given to the Abu Sayyaf by its founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani who was slain in a police shootout in Basilan in December 1998.
In the video, Hapilon was shown with Abu Harith Al-Filibbieni, who is reportedly the deputy commander of al-Ansar Infantry Division of the ISIS; and Mohd Najib Husen (Hussein) alias Abu Annas Al Muhajir, division head of the Ansar al-Sharia of the ISIS.
They also explained in the video that they had previously done the bayah, but did it again in front of their new leaders.
It was unknown when the video was recorded, but it was released following claim of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City that Husen was killed during offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf in December.
Husen was with other Malaysian jihadists – Mahmud Ahmad, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil – who fled to southern Philippines, reportedly to recruit militants and send them to “Dar al-Harb (place of war),” referring to Syria and Iraq, where the ISIS established its own caliphate state.
The Abu Sayyaf hoisted a black flag similar to those being used by the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other hard-line radical jihadist groups like the Boko Haram in Africa.
The Abu Sayyaf has evolved into a notorious group known for carrying out kidnappings, bombings and other criminal activities in southern Philippines. The US government has offered a $5 million bounty for Hapilon’s capture – dead or alive.
In Maguindanao and nearby provinces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansarul Khilafah have also pledged allegiance to the ISIS. Radical militants in Indonesia and Malaysia, including the Southeast Asian terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah have done the same.
Just last month, the jihadists also released a video of the ISIS’s Alhayat Media Center showing the Philippines as among the countries in Southeast Asia they were planning to expand its “Khilafah (caliphate).”
The Abu Sayyaf is now using the Daesh flag along with the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other radical groups in Lanao del Sur.
Also, local militants – Ghuraba (Strangers) and Khilafah Islamiyah Movement – headed by Humam Abdul Najid were implicated in the 2013 Cagayan de Oro City bombings.