ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippine troops captured an Abu Sayyaf militant involved in cross-border kidnappings in Sabah in Malaysia, officials said Monday.
Officials said Sahidul Bandhala Jikiri was captured over the weekend after villagers in Sitangkai town in Tawi-Tawi province allegedly tipped off the military about his involvement with the notorious group tied to the Islamic State.
Jikiri, who is currently being interrogated by authorities, admitted his roles in kidnappings in Sabah and that some of the ransoms were used to fund terror activities and piracy in the sea bordering the Philippines and Malaysia.
Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the cooperation of civilians and support of the local government led to Jikiri’s fall. “The civilians are really helping us in stopping Abu Sayyaf atrocities and of course with the support of local government leaders. The operation against the Abu Sayyaf is continuing,” she said.
Petinglay said government soldiers also seized over the weekend an Abu Sayyaf encampment on a remote hilltop village in Sumisip town in Basilan province. She said troops recovered homemade bomb components left behind by militants under Puruji Indama after engaging them in a firefight.
Military aircrafts, said added, provided close air support while ground troops pounded the area with artillery fire. Petinglay said troops discovered about a dozen makeshift tents at the encampment that could accommodate at least 40 militants.
Quoting reports from army commanders in Basilan, Petinglay said as many as 20 militants were killed in the clashes since May 11, but the military could not provide proofs of the claims except for information allegedly provided by civilians and former militants who surrendered to them. Both Tawi-Tawi and Basilan belong to the Muslim autonomous region where security forces are battling the Abu Sayyaf which has been fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the country.
Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also convened over the weekend some 300 Ulama or Islamic scholars and religious leaders to seek help in an effort to fight extremism and terrorism, especially the violent influence of the Islamic State.
The three-day summit held in Cotabato City was also attended by police and military officials and other peace advocates and other stakeholders not only in the autonomous region, but also in Mindanao. Hataman said terrorists use inappropriate interpretations of Islamic principles to strengthen their cause and encourage the commission of vicious acts.
“We urge our Ulama that if we are on the right position, we should move to show what is right, and let’s condemn what is wrong,” he said, adding, the Philippines now ranked 12th among the countries heavily affected by terrorism according to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
He said the presence of the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, including other terrorist groups in the region brings the whole of ARMM at the forefront of the fight against terrorism in the country. Hataman said Muslim scholars can contribute to the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace and harmony.
Hataman emphasized that Islam means peace “and this can automatically counter terrorism and extremism, because peace in Islam is a key of association not isolation; it is a key of accommodation not marginalization.” (Mindanao Examiner)
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