ZAMBOANGA CITY – Security forces killed an Abu Sayyaf leader and one of his followers in clashes in Tawi-Tawi, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said on Friday.
Officials said Ninok Sappari and his follower Mahdi Abdurahman were killed in separate clashes in the capital town of Bongao on Thursday. The duo was staying at a beach resort in the village of Pahut when security forces swooped down in the area before noontime and engaged them in a gun battle and killed Abdurahman.
Sappari managed to escape the soldiers and police commandos, but he was eventually tracked down in nearby village of Nalil later that night, and fighting continued until security forces killed him, according to army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.
“The operation was initially conducted at the Almari Beach Resort in Barangay Pahut, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi where the two are said to be staying while looking and eyeing possible kidnap victims from the said resort but were however reported by a concerned civilian after suspecting their movements,” she said.
Major General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the killing of Sappari was a big setback for the Abu Sayyaf. “All available forces are being deployed to pursue and neutralize the Abu Sayyaf group. These recent operations have caused setbacks, casualties and losses on the terrorist group,” he said. “We will not stop until we get them all or until they decide to return to the folds of the law and surrender.”
Sappari was also tagged as behind the March 2012 kidnapping of Indian national Viju Kolara Veetil and other Filipinos in Sulu province. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding over a dozen Asian sailors kidnapped in Basilan province, also in the autonomous region, and from Sabah, Malaysia. (Mindanao Examiner)