Representatives of the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade assured the neighboring province of Negros Oriental that there is no longer threat from the Abu Sayyaf after government troops neutralized the two remaining stragglers in Bohol on May 15.
The 302nd Infantry Brigade’s assurance was conveyed during last Thursday’s security briefing spearheaded by the Bantay Bayanihan-Negros Oriental in Dumaguete City.
According to the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade, the Abu Sayyaf no longer poses threat not just to Bohol but also the neighboring Negros Island Region in general.
However, the Bantay Bayanihan-Negros Oriental led by the Philippine Army, said that government troops are not taking any chances and let their guards down.
The military continues to remind civilians to stay vigilant.
“The ASG no longer poses a threat in Bohol and the region in general. However, the possibility of the Abu Sayyaf Group’s retaliatory acts as a result of their Bohol setback would not be remote,” according to the military.
In its assessment, the AFP cited that the “community’s active involvement, prompt support of the local chief executives and other stakeholders in counterterrorism effort prove critical and effective in combating the terrorism threat”.
For the background, the military traced that ASG sub-leader Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami, planned to kidnap tourists in Southern Cebu and Southern Negros.
“In late 2016, pictures of tourist destinations in Southern Cebu and Southern Negros were extracted from an ASG cellular phone.
Relentless AFP campaign against ASG in Mindanao added credence that the ASG will launch terroristic acts in less secured areas.
Influence of violent extremism among Muslim converts, or the “balik-islam”, in the Visayas makes it probable that ASG support cells are being established.”
The military cited prior intelligence information received from Western Mindanao Command (WMC) which stated that Abu Rami left Sulu on April 6 and moved towards Visayas.
Tracing the timeline of the ASG operation to Bohol, the AFP cited the US Embassy travel advisory for Central Visayas issued on April 9, referring to ‘unsubstantiated yet credible’ information on possible kidnapping activities in the region.
On April 11, the encounter in Inabanga broke which left nine dead- -five ASG members including Abu Rami, three soldiers and one policeman.
On April 22, four more ASG members, including local point person, Joselito Melloria, alias Ali, were killed in firefight with government troops in Clarin.
On the same day, Police Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza and her alleged lover, ASG member Reneer Lou Dongon, were arrested after avoiding a police checkpoint in Clarin.
The allegedly tried to rescue the remaining ASG members in Bohol.
Police found survival supplies and firearms inside their car.
They were accompanied by Dongon’s mother and a 13-year-old girl.
On April 25, police seized several firearms and bomb parts from the apartment rented by Nobleza and her companions in barangay Looc, Panglao.
On May 4, ASG member Saad Samad Kiram was arrested while begging for food and clothing in barangay Tanawan, Tubigon.
He was allegedly the subject of the foiled rescue operation by Nobleza and Dongon.
On May 5, Kiram was shot dead by police following an escape try while in transit to Bohol District Jail in Tagbilaran City.
On May 15, Abu Ubayda and Abu Asis, reportedly the last two remaining ASG members in Bohol, were killed in an encounter in Pangangan Island in Calape, where they escaped using a fishing boat they allegedly stole.