CLARIN, Bohol â€“Â Four more members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed yesterday in a continuing pursuit by the military of the terrorists in a mountain barangay of Clarin town.
As of 5 o’clock dawn today, military troopers were still pursuing their operations for the three remaining terrorists, according to the Chronicle team which was dispatched to the site near a cave. Of the three, only one of them is armed with an M-16 riffle. Military and police forces have been in pursuit of the terrorists since the initial clash on Tuesday last week in Barangay Napo, Inabanga where four of their comrades were killed during the firefight which lasted 24 hours involving a combined ground assault and airstrikes by the armed forces.
PNP Prov’l Director Felipe Natividad Â confirmed to the Chronicle yesterday afternoon that government troops were in chase of the remaining Abu Sayyaf members who were able to escape with Joselito Melloria somewhere in the town of Clarin. The remnants of the terrorists turned out to be hiding in a cave where military intelligence had zeroed in on their search in Barangay Bacani.
Among the four killed terrorists was Â Melloria, also known as Abu Alih, was a native of Inabanga who left his hometown after he married a daughter of an Abu Sayyaf commander a few years back. The three other slain comrades of Melloria have yet to be identified.
Shortly before noontime yesterday, the military finally caught up with the remaining Abu Sayyaf members when one of the terrorists came out of hiding to buy bread in Poblacion Clarin.
According to military sources, the Abu Sayyaf member who was apparently sent on an errand to buy bread rode a habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) and asked the driver that he be taken to Barangay Bacani.
The habal-habal driver immediately noticed his suspicious-looking and unkempt passenger who smelled as if he had not taken a bath for days.
The habal-habal driver who spoke with the Chronicle bared that the passenger immediately caught his suspicion as he could not speak straight the local Visayan dialect.
Right after dropping off his passenger in Barangay Bacani, the habal-habal driver went straight to the Clarin Police Station to report his suspicion of the passenger.
Clarin police immediately relayed the military which immediately deployed a strike force to the area that luckily caught up with the errand just as he was returning to the cave which is about 200 meters from the highway.
As troopers chased and fired shots at the errand, the other Abu Sayyaf members encamped at the cave returned fire.
According to military sources, Melloria was at the forefront of the terrorists who fought back in a gunbattle against the government troops. Melloria was hit with multiple gunshots that killed him on the spot as the other Abu Sayyaf members retreated back into the cave.
The military were able to retrieve the lifeless body of Melloria around 3 p.m. as government forces set up a cordon surrounding the cave which cornered the terrorist fighters.
The cave which is located in Sitio Kabulihan bounding Barangay Bacani and Barangay Nahawan has no exit and has an opening of about 7-meters wide and 2-meters high.
At around 7 p.m. last night, two teams of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) swooped into the cave where the remaining Abu Sayyaf stragglers were trapped.
The ensuing gunbattle was a virtual â€œmassacreâ€ as the three remaining bandits were all killed by the elite SAF teams.
The lifeless bodies of the bandits were retrieved at the battle site at past 10 p.m. last night and were brought to the Clarin Funeral Homes.
Government troops gathered one Galil 5.56 rifle with M203, one M16 rifle and one M14 rifle from the slain Abu Sayyaf members.
Governor Edgar Chatto who was in conference with the military in Clarin past midnight last night Â again commended the strong will and vigilance of the Boholanos to work with the authorities which led to the success of yesterdayâ€™s operation, saying that it was a product of a coordinated effort of the people and the tactical intelligence of the government troops.
Through reports of concerned residents, police and military forces engaged the heavily armed bandits in a day-long gunbattle which killed their leader, Abu Rami, believed to be the number-two man of the Abu Sayyaf. Three soldiers and a policeman were also killed, including an old couple who were apparently hit in the crossfire and whose house was utilized by the bandits as their hideout.
It can be recalled that Melloria guided the incursion into the province a group of 10 Abu Sayyaf members through the coastal town of Inabanga.
According to police and military intelligence, the Abu Sayyaf group traveled from Sulu by motor boat to Bohol and were guided to Inabangaâ€™s interior hinterlands by Melloria. Military officials believed Joselito may have been designated to lead the AKP faction had the attack been successful, the officials said. The AKP groupâ€™s leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed by counterterrorism forces in southern Sarangani province in January.
Melloria, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Alih and allowed the militants to stay at his Inabanga home, was wounded in Tuesdayâ€™s firefight but escaped with several other militants.
At the height of yesterdayâ€™s gunbattle, more than 1,000 residents of Barangay Bacani and its neighboring village of Nahawan were evacuated to the Clarin Cultural Center and at the Bohol Island State University (BISU)-Clarin Campus.
Most of those evacuated have remained at the cultural center as of presstime last night. The PSWDO, MSWDO and the DSWD are helping to provide relief goods to the evacuees while the LGUs of Clarin and Inabanga and the provincial governmentÂ Â are also providing food and water to the affected families.
Other sources indicate there could perhaps be three other gang members holed up in the mountainous terrain with very little ammunition left and perhaps the fight almost taken away from them due to days of hiding with little food and decent rest.
Will the authorities take them out today and end the story of a band of ASG, the first to ever try to disturb this peaceful, tourism- geared island province? (Kit Bagaipo with reports from Allen Doydora and Jun Guiterrez)