A GANG leader wanted for a string of criminal charges was arrested after a bloody clash with members of a joint military task force that left one dead and a civilian wounded on Wednesday in Omar, Sulu.
Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said Saudi Hamja was captured in the village of Capual in the town of Omar.
One of Hamja’s followers was killed by soldiers while a civilian was wounded in the crossfire and brought to a hospital in Luuk town.
Petinglay said security forces seized three dozen automatic firearms, including a .50-caliber machinegun, grenade launchers and a Kalashnikov rifle, from Hamja’s group, believed to have links to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
“Police and military operations against lawless groups are ongoing,” according to her.
Hamja is being interrogated in Sulu but it was not immediately known whether his group was involved in Abu Sayyaf piracy and cross-border raids in Sabah, Malaysia.
Petinglay said combined elements of Task Group Panther and personnel of the Omar Municipal Police Station conducted the operation against Hamja, who has a standing warrant of arrest for arson and attempted murder.
Several engagements between government troops and the ASG and kidnap-for-ransom groups in the area have taken place as military operations were directed at identified lairs of the lawless groups.
WITH A REPORT FROM JULMUNIR I. JANARRAL