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Military operations continue vs Abu Sayyaf

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine military said operations against the Abu Sayyaf continue after reports broke out Monday that jihadists had killed a Canadian hostage in Sulu, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region.

Col. Noel Detoyato, a military spokesman, said they are still verifying reports that Robert Hall was killed by his captors after the 3 p.m. deadline lapsed on Monday.

The Abu Sayyaf has recently warned that it would kill one of their hostages if ransoms for the hostages are not paid or if the military launch a rescue mission. “If nobody will contact us to arrange our ransom demand or the military conducts an operation, air strikes or artillery attacks or any violations against us, we will hurt and torture the hostages, Inshallah,” it said.

In April, the jihadist group beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel, 68, in Sulu after his family failed to pay the P300 million ransoms the Abu Sayyaf demanded. 

Ridsdel was kidnapped by 10 gunmen from the resort island of Samal in Davao del Norte province in September 21 last year along with Hall, 50; and a Norwegian man Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, and his Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor.

Detoyato said: “Meron nga lumabas na information tungkol sa insidente pero alam ninyo ngayon na ang Armed Forces ay itutuloy lang natin ang ating suporta sa operations. Pero yun impormasyon na lumabas na yan iko-consider na namin yan para sa further confirmation.”

“Lahat ng mga iyan ay iko-consider natin para sa verification. Kasi isa yan sa mga batayan natin para ma-confirm ang mga report. Tuloy-tuloy naman ang focused military operation natin, intell-driven naman ito at the same time ino-obserbahan rin natin at nire-respeto ang ating mga kapatid na Muslim sa panahon ng Ramadhan.”

The military’s Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo dela Cruz did not give any details of the on-going operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. President Benigno Aquino has previously ordered a massive assault on the jihadist group also blamed for the spate of terrorism there.

Prior to the reported killing of Hall, members of the Filipino communities in Canada released a statement pleading with the Manila to rescue the hostages.

“Our group, the Pinoy in Canada Patriotic Movement, is a non-profit organization born and organized in full patriotic fervor in the wake of the upcoming Duterte administration in the Philippines. We are composed of Filipino leaders and volunteers who are active members of the Filipino-Canadian community in GTA Ontario. We fully support the incoming administration of Rodrigo Duterte, and fervently hope that kidnappings and the existence of terrorist groups will be eradicated in the Philippines on his watch,” it said.

Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also issued a statement on Hall’s murder. Below is the full text of his statement.

“It has only been a week since Ramadan began, and it is appalling that this holy month we set aside for prayer and reflection has been already been violated by extremists here and abroad, as they wage violence in the name of our faith. The refuge and shelter we share as Muslims has become a strange place for others. Extremists claim to follow the faith while they go against Islam’s message of peace and humanity. Their betrayal of Islam knows no bounds that even in the most holy days of Ramadan, they turn a time meant for prayers and contemplation into days of fear and horror. Now, as we receive reports of the Abu Sayyaf killing yet another one of its hostages, we express our deepest condemnation against this act of pointless violence and terrorism.”

“This is not what Islam stands for, and we refuse to let this turn us against our fellow Filipinos – not at a time when Ramadan teaches us sympathy, compassion, and love. Violence cannot and must not be so easily associated with one people, race, or culture. Many try to distort the Islam we know by heart, and it is our responsibility to make the truth of Islam known to people. Those who tread the path of violence and claim to do it in the name of Islam are, without question, merely men of sin who distort a faith that stands for peace. They are not our people. Our response to these attacks against our faith can be found in Islam itself: as Muslims we are taught that to kill one man means to kill all of humanity, and to save one man means to save all of humanity. It is then imperative for us work to together as Muslims in making sure that the criminals behind these acts of violence are made accountable to our people in the courts of law, and to save those who might fall into the hands of these men who do nothing but evil. Let us pray for those who will forever be changed by this day, and let us stand together as we build and rebuild our faith in the midst of those who try to tear us apart.” (Mindanao Examiner)

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