THE terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is in cahoots with drug lords and is responsible for proliferation of illegal drugs in the ZamBaSulta area, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.
Zambasulta is made up of the provinces of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in southern Mindanao.
Citing reports from different units that had engaged the ASG, Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman for the AFP Joint Task Force Sulu, said the bandits not only kidnap for ransom but also trade in illegal drugs to fund their terrorist and other criminal acts.
The illegal drugs, according to Gregorio, also serve to motivate ASG members to commit crimes.
“These are the findings of numerous units in the ZamBaSulta area… Reports coming from the line units indicate that those engaging the troops are mostly young [ASG] recruits who are most probably ‘high’ on certain drugs particularly shabu [methamphetamine hydrochloride]as evidenced by paraphernalia found in belongings of dead [bandits]and in their lairs,” he said.
Gregorio added that drugs are being used to lure youngsters who are given shabu for free and later on recruited once they are addicted to it.
“Reports also indicate that money generated from shabu is being used to finance the ASG’s daily operations,” he said.
Gregorio also cited claims of some of the former hostages of the group one of them an Indonesian, Herman Bin Manggak, who told authorities during his debriefing that he saw the bandits guarding him taking shabu.
Talking to interpreters, Manggak said he was nearly rescued three times by government troops who were engaged in fierce gun battles.
In those instances, he added, he witnessed effects of drugs on the terrorists who treat such battles as a game.
The military has also claimed that the Abu Sayyaf Group has connections with the drug lords in the distribution of illegal drugs in the ZamBaSulta area.
The group, it said, also backs up drug suspects whenever anti-drug operations are conducted in the area.
Authorities also cited a number of such operations by joint police and military troops that resulted in bloody confrontations.
One of them took place in Sulu where a policeman identified as Police Officer 2 Tirso Mantalaba, 27, of the 24th Special Action Company of the elite Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police, was killed in a firefight with a drug dealer identified as Anuddin Akiran Daharani, 38, who was also killed.
The anti-drug operation was conducted last Saturday by military forces in Barangay Kaunayan, Patikul, Sulu.
Troops recovered high-powered firearms and drug paraphernalia during the operation.
In Zamboanga City, another ASG member, Arnisar Dangsani Ismaluddin was arrested by police in a buy-bust last Tuesday afternoon.
Gregorio said in Metro Manila, several Abu Sayyaf bandits have also been arrested for drug trafficking.