ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces in Zamboanga City arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit involved in mass kidnappings in Basilan, a day before the regional anti-terrorism summit here.
Police said Hussin Iril alias Ibba Gani, captured at Paseo del Mar on Thursday afternoon, was implicated in the abductions and brutal killings in Lantawan town after the bandits raided a coconut and rubber plantation there in 2001.
President Rodrigo Duterte, citing fresh intelligence reports, recently said that local militants allied with the Islamic State (IS), are targeting Zamboanga and Isabela City in Basilan, one of five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Ulama or Muslim scholars from Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces gathered here on Friday for a two-day regional summit aimed at addressing violent extremism and terrorism. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attended the summit.
Iril was the 4th Abu Sayyaf fighter arrested in Zamboanga in recent weeks. He is currently being interrogated.
Three other militants, natives of Basilan, were captured recently for plotting to bomb civilian targets here.
Zamboanga has been bombed many times in the past years and residents face a continuing threat from the Abu Sayyaf.
The anti-terrorism summit is an offshoot of the Ulama forum held in Cotabato City in May. Initiated by ARMM, the regional Darul Ifta and Majlish-Shura, Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman said they are mobilizing the Ulama to spread the true teachings of Islam to counter the threat of violent extremism.
The Darul Ifta said that “terrorism and mischief cannot be accepted as synonyms to jihad, or part of the struggle, because our religion commands us to be compassionate to all beings in the land.”
The summit also condemned the brazen attack of IS-inspired bandits in Marawi City on May 23. The fighting has been ongoing for more than five months now and has virtually turned Marawi into a war-ravaged city similar to Mosul in Iraq.
Hataman said the summit brings together the Ulama in the region for mutual consultation and for discussions on the pressing issue of violent extremism and terrorism, as well as to reach a consensus on how to protect the Muslim community in general, and determine the Ulama’s role in countering and preventing extremism.
Meanwhile, three ASG terrorists with high-powered firearms have surrendered to authorities on Friday in Barangay Bulibangao, Tongkil town of Sulu.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the 545th Engineering Command Battalion and the Philippine Coast Guard in Western Mindanao facilitated the surrender on Thursday.
The ASG men were identified as Ajimad Musnali, Nanah Amdad Tunggal and Hasiri Sabirin under the group’s sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya who was killed in a shootout with troops of Joint Task Force Sulu. They turned over three caliber 30 spring field firearms.
Sobejana said the bandits mentioned leadership vacuum, lack of logistics and finances, disorganized group and lost of community support as among the reasons for their surrender.
“They [also]realized that beheading among their kidnapped victims is un-Islamic,” Sobejana noted.
WITH DEMPSEY REYES