ZAMBOANGA CITY: Police on Tuesday filed criminal charges against dozens of Abu Sayyaf militants, including their leader, tagged as behind the deadly attack in Sulu last week.
Officials said 69 people were charged with the killing of 25 civilians, including women and children, in Talipao town. Among those charged were Abu Sayyaf leader Ustadz Yasser Igasan and his commanders Idang Susukan, Tawing Umair and Sibih Pisih.
“We have filed multiple murders and frustrated multiple charges against them and there is an operation going on to arrest them,” Sulu police chief Abraham Orbita told The Manila Times.
The attack occurred during the Muslim celebration of Eid’ul Fitr, which marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The casualties were among the 50 passengers of two Tamaraw jeepneys that include 10 members of the Talipao Barangay Police Action Team.
They were travelling to Ba–rangay Lower Talipao when fired upon by more or less 50 Abu Sayyaf members.
At least 13 children were also wounded in the incident that happened at about 9:20 a.m. in Sitio Jatih.
Provincial government officials led by Gov. Totoh Tan and military commanders condemned the attack on innocent civilians.
Officials said the militants attacked the civilians in retaliation for their support to local authorities against the Abu Sayyaf atrocities. The attack could trigger retaliation by families and relatives of the victims against kin of the Abu Sayyaf members involved in the ambush.
The filing of murder charges against the Abu Sayyaf militants coincided with the release on August 4 of one of two Muslim women they abducted in Sulu’s Patikul town.
Marine Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said Nursalyn Alih, 26, was released at Sitio Kantitap in the village of Danag, but the fate of her companion Shekinah Hope Hamsain is still unknown.
Both women were traveling on a motorcycle when three gunmen seized them on August 3 in the village of Kaunayan in Patikul. Two of the gunmen have been identified as Ramsid Sali and Injie.
Muyuela said the marines brought Alih and her some members of her family to Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital for a routine medical examination. It was unknown if ransom was paid by Alih’s family to the kidnappers in exchange for her safe release.
“Authorities have yet to confirm whether the family of the victim paid ransom money for her safe release. Military troops continue to conduct pursuit operations to locate the remaining kidnapped victim,” Muyuela said.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several kidnapped foreigners and Filipinos in the southern Philippines.