ZAMBOANGA CITY: Government troops captured an Abu Sayyaf encampment, believed used by one of its leaders – Idang Susukan – following nearly an hour of running gunbattle in Sulu on Wednesday.
The Western Mindanao Command based here said members of 14th Special Ranger Company seized the camp in the village of Gulangan in Maimbung town.
There were no reports of casualties from both sides, but the military said the camp can accommodate as much as 200 people and being used by Susukan.
Susukan is a brother of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf leader Mujiv Susukan, linked by the military to the beheading of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then in November 2015 after his family failed to pay the ransom.
Soldiers also recovered gun parts, a motorcycle and personal belongings left behind by fleeing rebels.
Just recently, a suspected Abu Sayyaf member lobbed a grenade on a military truck transporting troops in Jolo town and injured seven special rangers. The soldiers just arrived by boat in Jolo and were heading to their barracks when the attack occurred at the port area, just several blocks from the police headquarters.
No arrest was made, but suspicion fell heavily on Abu Sayyaf which is holding several foreigners in Sulu’s hinterlands and has threatened to execute one of them.
The Abu Sayyaf has threatened to behead the remaining hostages on June 13 unless the P600 million ransom for each is paid by 3 p.m. On April 25 their Canadian hostage – John Ridsdel – was beheaded after a ransom payment failed.
A video earlier released by the group showed hostages – Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor – pleading the Filipino and their governments for their lives.
The military could not ascertain if the hostages were with the group during the firefight.
Meanwhile, Philippine Army’s public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, earlier announced that the military operations will continue against the group despite its ultimatum.
He said that the military will never negotiate, or pay the ransom, as it would only embolden the bandits to carry out more kidnappings.
The soldiers have been sent to the province to augment ground forces battling the Abu Sayyaf which pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.