Two (out of 10) of the remaining terrorists belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are in their survival mode now after trying to evade government troopers during the past 28 days.
The two bandits, Abu Asis and Abu Ubaydan were last seen in barangay Cahayag, Panggangan island, Calape where they were almost cornered by government troopers who responded to a tip on the presence of two suspected Abu Sayyaf members. A whole day operation failed to capture of the duo who were noted to be well trained on how to survive.
Despite the presence of helicopter gunships, the military troopers lost the duo in the six-hectare mangrove plantation. Earlier, a farmer reported Asis and Ubaydan to be in the mountain barangay in San Isidro town.
According to the military, Abu Asis is armed with a cal. 45 pistol and two hand grenades while Abu Abayda still has an M-16 armalite.
All the while, the military relied heavily on information from the people in the towns while government troops are expected to comb the mountains and intercept the bandits.
According to Barangay Captain Victor Talatagud, the two suspected ASG men were first spotted on Wednesday night alerting authorities on their presence. The villagers however immediately lost sight of the men while one of the alleged bandits reemerged the next day and knocked on a villager’s door to ask for food.
The resident, only identified by authorities as a 17-year-old boy, vaguely described the alleged bandit as the suspect partly covered his face with a cloth, possibly a shirt.
A manhunt ensued after children who saw the suspect reportedly shouted “Abu Sayyaf” startling the alleged ASG fighter and prompting him to run towards a forest area.
Barangay officials and military personnel pursued the suspect but eventually escaped from authorities.
In an interview with media, Talatagud said that the two suspected bandits were first spotted on board a small boat at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The men docked near a mangrove forest but quickly went out of sight, said Talatagud.
Authorities believe that the suspects continue to hide in the thick mangrove forest.
Meanwhile, some 70 fishermen have been told to secure their fishing boats which would possibly be used by the bandits to escape.
There was no evacuation in the area.
Abu Sayyaf bandits knew from the hatching of their Bohol infiltration plan how far the government troops could go.
According to classified information, some ranking officers from the government troops had been part of the planning team for the supposed long-term indoctrination in Bohol.
The Abu Sayyaf top guns entrusted with the Bohol mission allegedly had been briefed on the types of service firearms available to the government troops.
Worst, not only Joselito Melloria was giving them information about the caves in Bohol where they could seek cover to avoid checkpoints when they would travel from one place to another.
This was not yet anticipating the skirmish, as the bandits never expected to be discovered that early.
Prior to the infiltration of Melloria’s group, there were allegedly advance parties who came in batches months earlier who studied the profile of Bohol’s coastlines.
It was from this pre-infiltration missions that the bandits learned that the presence of coast guard teams is limited in some areas of Bohol.
While the bandits could disappear swiftly in the woods, Melloria’s group was allegedly briefed by traitors in the government troops that the soldiers and police officers go to the battleground with baggage.
Indeed, the Abu Sayyaf stragglers managed to roam around Inabanga, Tubigon, Clarin, Calape, some portion of Sagbayan adjacent to Inabanga for over a month already.
This is despite the repeated assurance of the military that they had contained the bandits in one area in the hinterlands.
Worst, one of those slain in the encounters with government troops was seen in the CCTV footage provided by BQ Mall to the Provincial Intelligence Branch a day before the ASEAN meeting in Panglao started.
From Inabanga, Melloria and seven others managed to reach Clarin during the period when the military issued an assurance that the bandits tried but failed to move to areas adjacent to barangay Napo in Inabanga because of the blockade.
That was 11 days after the Inabanga clash.
Twelve days after Melloria and three others were killed in an encounter in Clarin, the boatman named Saad Kiram was captured in Tubigon, obviously breaking through the blockade.
ASG SURVIVAL TACTICS
Some SWAT team members also admitted already from the start of the battle that they could not match the combat techniques and resources of the ASG.
After the Inabanga clash, the SWAT Team and some of the soldiers admitted they were overpowered by fear at times while combing the hinterlands, looking for Melloria and the rest of the bandits.
They also admitted their rifles were already worn out, aside from the fact that they were only fed with sardines most of the time.
The soldiers and the SWAT Team narrated that the bandits were fast in firing at them that they could hardly reach for a bottle of water due to the continuous gunfire.
Moreover, while the new police officers had been trained with the Special Action Force (SAF) on how to land on their foot and back from a running truck or from the helicopter without getting sprained, they did not have much obstacle course training involving survival techniques such as when in the thick mangroves or in caves.
Meanwhile, Boholanos were shocked to see the video uploaded on the Facebook account of Duterte 2016 Bohol Movement last night which was captioned as the video footage from a cellphone of one of the ASG men killed in Bohol.
The video footage was allegedly taken during the encounter in barangay Napo, Inabanga.
It showed Abu Saad who was described by the captured Saad Kiram as already dead a long time ago.
However, it was doubtful if it was really taken from Inabanga clash because it can be noted that the encounter involved the Philippine Air Force dropping bombs, while the audio component in the video footage only have the sounds of bursts of gunfire from armalites and there was no sound of bomb explosions from above.