Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rebel returnee abducted, killed

From Tempo (Nov 1): Rebel returnee abducted, killed

DAVAO CITY – A former member of the New People’s Army (NPA), who recently decided to return to the folds of the law, was gunned down by unidentified armed men last Tuesday in Barangay Dalagdag, Calinan here.

Captain Ernest Carolina, 10th Infantry Division information officer, said Arnel Recta, a rebel returnee, and his wife were in their farm in Barangay Callawa, Buhangin District here, last October 24 when armed men abducted them.

Captain Carolina said some witnesses saw the couple forcibly taken by armed men believed to be NPA rebels.

Since then, the couple had been missing until Recta’s body with bullet wounds was recovered by authorities on October 28. The whereabouts of his wife was not yet determined as of this writing.

Recta, a resident of Purok 14 in Barangay Callawa, surrendered to the elements of 69th Infantry Battalion in April of this year.

Local Suluks told: Reject extremists

From the Daily Express (Nov 2): Local Suluks told: Reject extremists

TAWAU: The attempts by extremist groups from the Southern Philippines to create tension in Sabah are futile and would not serve to benefit the local Suluk community, according to a grassroot leader here.
Sabah Suluk Solidarity Council Secretary Mohd Zaki Harry Susanto said the groups' action to undermine Malaysia's sovereignty had impacted negatively on local Suluks whose origins could be traced to Sulu, Southern Philippines.    He urged the community, now an ethnic group in Sabah, to guard against being drawn to the extremists who were out to indoctrinate them.    "We should be grateful that we have become Malaysian citizens. Compared to the Suluks in the Southern Philippines, we are far better off and living peacefully here," he said in a statement here, Saturday.    Mohd Zaki, who is also Chairman of the Association of Youth Communities in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), said it was incumbent on the Suluk community to prove their loyalty to Malaysia.    He said they should reject any attempt to fan racist sentiments among the population, for the sake of sustaining peace beyond this generation. Meanwhile, he urged the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) not to focus its omnipresence on the Esszone alone but to also reinforce its show of force inland.    "The people's confidence in the security of the State will be enhanced if the show of force is visible not just within the 10 districts in the Esszone.  "Such strength will also nip in the bud, any attempt of perpetration by terrorists who may have long infiltrated and assimilated themselves into the local community," he said.    Esscom was established on April 1, 2013, following the terrorist intrusion at Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu the same year. Esszone, covering 1,733.7 kilometres, comprises the 10 districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau.

Amid high hopes for peace, USAID scales back Mindanao program

Posted to Devex (Oct 31): Amid high hopes for peace, USAID scales back Mindanao program

The Philippines’ second-largest bilateral donor, the U.S. Agency for International Development has pumped upward of $500 million in development aid to Mindanao over the past decade — a massive assistance effort that has been part and parcel of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism and stabilization strategy in the Philippines’ conflict-ridden southern region.
Against the backdrop of the recent signing of a historic peace agreement between the Philippine government and Mindanao’s largest Muslim insurgency group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, USAID Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele confirmed in a video interview with Devex that the U.S. aid agency has set in motion plans to aggressively scale back its Mindanao program.
USAID will now direct only 10 percent of its Philippine budget to Mindanao — a drastic decline from the 60 percent share in previous years. The U.S. aid agency’s decision was first spelled out, but little noticed, in its 2012-2016 country development cooperation strategy for the Philippines.
[Video: Why USAID Philippines is scaling back its Mindanao budget
In this video interview with Devex Senior Analyst Lorenzo Piccio, USAID Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele explains why her mission has decided to slash the share of its budget directed to Mindanao from 60 percent to 10 percent.]
 In explaining USAID’s decision to downsize its Mindanao program, Steele stressed that her mission needs more flexibility to align its resources with the Philippine government’s ambitious development agenda. The Aquino administration’s pro-growth and anti-corruption reforms are widely credited with reviving the Philippines’ development prospects.

MILF: Turnover and launching of Bangsamoro Development Plan at Darapanan on Nov 2

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 1): Turnover and launching of Bangsamoro Development Plan at Darapanan on Nov 2

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) will formally turnover the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), a comprehensive roadmap for the social recovery and rehabilitation of the Bangsamoro, to the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at Camp Darapanan on November 2, 2014. In the same occasion the plan, which is hoped to bring the desired peace and development for the Bangsamoro people, will be launched.
The symbolic transfer of the completed BDP will be witnessed by members of the MILF Central Committee, MILF line agencies, BDA, International Donors, development partners, GPH line agency secretaries and under-secretaries, academe, business groups and Bangsamoro people.

MILF Central Committee Chairman Ebrahim Murad will lead the significant event in the history of the Bangsamoro. The occasion, where more than 500 are expected to attend, banners the theme “Promoting Just, Honorable, Lasting Peace and Sustainable Development in the Bangsamoro.

The holistic plan reflects the aspirations and needs of the Bangsamoro people. It was crafted employing a tedious process of consultation with the Bangsamoro people including the Indigenous Peoples and settlers.

The BDP is an initiative of the MILF through the BDA which was supported by GPH and development partners. Guided by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, the plan will provide strategic directions for the delivery and upgrade of basic services in Bangsamoro communities during and beyond the transition period.

Donor agencies provided technical and financial support to the BDP formulation. International and local consultants were recruited to address the thematic areas of the BDP. Thematic areas are the following: economy, social, environmental and natural resources, politics, security, culture and identity, and the cross-cutting themes of gender and development, peace-building and youth

BDP’s short and midterm programs will provide equitable access to jobs and livelihood and establish rule of law, security and stability.

The programs are meant to (for the short term) smoothen the transition from the ARMM to the BTA to the New Bangsamoro Government and (for the mid and long term) lay the solid foundations for a just, lasting peace and prosperous Bangsamoro.

In the undertaking the BDP formulation, a Core Planning Team headed by the BDA Planning Officer and supported by consultants from World Bank, United Nations and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was created and served as the project secretariat and supervised the work of the different Cluster heads and thematic area consultants.
The World Bank, through the Mindanao Trust Fund, has been providing technical and logistical support to the BDA to manage the exhaustive process.

Army finds body of suspected NPA member in Sarangani province

From GMA News (Nov 1): Army finds body of suspected NPA member in Sarangani province

The remains of a suspected member of the New People's Army was found with an M16 rifle in Maasim town in Sarangani province on Saturday morning, the Army's 10th Infantry Division said.
The Army believes the body was left behind by a group of NPA members that figured in a 15-minute clash with the 27th Infantry Battalion in the same town on Friday.
Troops are still pursuing other suspected members of the NPA who were involved in the firefight, the 10th ID said.
The body is the ninth that the 10th ID has recovered in October.
Earlier in October, Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command — which includes the 10th ID — ordered units to step up operations against the NPA.

Pressure on military to show results in hunt vs Abu Sayyaf

From Rappler (Nov 1): Pressure on military to show results in hunt vs Abu Sayyaf

It's been two weeks since the military launched a full-scale combat rescue mission against the Abu Sayyaf but the troops have yet to find them

FULL SCALE COMBAT RESCUE MISSION: The military has deployed 2 brigades, hoping to end the threat from the Abu Sayyaf Group

FULL SCALE COMBAT RESCUE MISSION: The military has deployed 2 brigades, hoping to end the threat from the Abu Sayyaf Group
Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr was back in Sulu this week for his 3rd trip this month to the province. Pressure is high as President Benigno Aquino III said last week significant gains in military operations against the local terrorist gang Abu Sayyaf Group can be expected. (READ: Aquino: Expect suppression of Abu Sayyaf in 'following days')
"We will continue law enforcement operations. There is pressure to produce results," military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc said.
Sulu is again a focus of military operations. Troops were deployed last month to rescue German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen last month, but in the end the German government preferred negotiations. The Abu Sayyaf claimed that the full P250 million ransom was paid ($5.58 million)*. (READ: Abu Sayyaf frees 2 German hostages)
"One of the focus of the chief of staff right now is to turn around the image of Sulu from being the 'Kidnap Capital in the Philippines' into one of the most developed provinces," said Cabunoc.
The troops started hunting the Abu Sayyaf on October 18, a day after the release, to rescue at least 10 remaining hostages. It's been two weeks and the troops have yet to find where the rebels and at least 10 more hostages are hiding.
The Abu Sayyaf has focused on kidnap-for-ransom activities in recent years but it has also become notorious for terrorist acts like bombing and beheading of troops and hostages. Even Sulu residents have not been spared.
'Adjustment period'
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin joined the trip on Thursday, October 30. He said the President is asking about the operations there, but he explained that the troops are still familiarizing themselves with the jungles of Sulu, where a number of soldiers – most recently in 2011 – were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf.
"I am here because the President wants to know the status of operations here in Sulu. We have new troops all the way from Luzon and others from Lanao province. They are still in the period of adjustment. We're checking how we can better support the operations," Gazmin told PTV4 in an interview in Sulu.
An Army brigade from Luzon and several elite units have been sent down south to augment the Marines. Navy and Air Force assets have been brought in, too, to provide air support and to blockade the island.
A total of about 3,000 troops are led by Task Force Sulu commander Colonel Alan Arrojado, who is returning to Sulu from the days he was a battalion commander there.
On the first two days of the military offensive, they found 3 abandoned camps. On Sunday, October 26, they captured 3 suspicious young men in the "interior area" operations, but they were forced to turn them over to village officials. On Wednesday, October 29, an 8-year-old hostage was released.
These are good signs, said Gazmin. He attributed the release of the hostage to the continuing pressure from troops.
"Dahil sa pressure ng military napilitan silang i-release yung bata. We will keep them on the run so that hindi nakapagplano. Hindi nakakatigil sa isang lugar itong mga kidnappers. Tuloy-tuloy ang movement nila. Ina-isolate unti-unti dahil dumadami ang puwersa natin dito. Napapaliit natin yung kanilang mundo," said Gazmin.
(They were forced to release the child because of the pressure. We will keep them on the run so the kidnappers are unable to stay in one place and plan their movements. We're gradually isolating them because our forces are increasing. We have been able to make their world shrink.)
Non-combat troops, too
Arrojado said it is only a matter of time. "Rest assured we will not stop our law enforcement operations even if we have some small credible results of accomplishments, tuloy-tuloy pa rin kaming mga sundalo at kapulisan," said Arrojado.
The military is bringing in non-combat troops, too, to engage the civilians especially the supporters, the relatives, and the mass base support of the Abu Sayyaf.
It's one of the issues raised during a meeting between the miltiary and the stakeholders in Sulu, said Cabunoc. Residents in the island, including children, have always been afraid of the military because the troops are always associated with combat operations. (READ: AFP chief to Sulu: Sorry for 'secretive' release of Germans)
Recognizing that the Abu Sayyaf threat cannot be given a military solution alone, Cabunoc said they're also sending Civil Military Operations (CMO) forces who will work with local religious leaders to explain to the residents that Abu Sayyaf activities are against Islam, among others.

Leftist rebel killed in Sarangani clash

From the Philippine Star (Nov 1): Leftist rebel killed in Sarangani clash

A suspected member of the leftist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with government troops in Sarangani, local military said today.

Ernest Carolina, 10th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said that troops from Army's 27th Infantry Battalion discovered the remains of the suspected leftist rebel with an M16 rifle in Lumasal village, Maasim town at around 5:30 a.m. local time on Saturday.

The rebel was believed to be left by his comrades after a 15- minute clash with the Army troopers in the same village on Friday afternoon, he said.

The body was the ninth recovered by the 10th ID soldiers as a result of operations during the month of October, Carolina said.

Blueprint for Bangsamoro development to be submitted today, Sunday

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 2): Blueprint for Bangsamoro development to be submitted today, Sunday

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) will formally submit the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), described as the comprehensive road map for the social recovery and rehabilitation of the Bangsamoro, to the central committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today (Sunday).

The BDA is the social development arm the MILF had put up in June 2001 to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

Hana Kabagani, BDA communications officer, said the development plan, which the BDA started to formulate in March 2013, would be handed over to the MILF, headed by Murad Ebrahim, during the formal turnover ceremonies in Camp Darapan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province.

Those expected to attend the turnover rites include Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator of the peace talks with Manila; Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles; United Nations resident coordinator Luiza Carvalho; Japan International Cooperative Agency country director Noriaki Niwa, and Motoo Konishi, the country director of the World Bank.

Kabagani described the BDP as the product of collaboration with Muslim, Christian and indigenous peoples communities in the proposed Bangsamoro areas, civil society groups and other development partners and government agencies.

“This is to ensure that the plan reflected the fundamental needs and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people—regardless of religion, ethnic group, political affiliation, or creed—who have lived in a vicious cycle of injustice, violence and poverty for generations,” Kabagani said in a media statement.

The BDP has seven program areas: economy and livelihood, infrastructure, social services, environment and natural resources, culture and identity, governance, and security and normalization.

These, Kabagani said, “will be implemented in the envisioned core territories and adjacent areas” and were “designed to restore confidence and ensure the smooth and inclusive transition from the [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] to the Bangsamoro government from 2015 to mid-2016, while laying the foundations for a just, peaceful and prosperous Bangsamoro from mid-2016 to 2022.”

As a blueprint for the development of the Bangsamoro, the BDA, she said, aimed to build the foundations of a “just economy” that would strengthen institutions, promote greater access to social services, jobs and livelihood opportunities and create citizen security, justice and rule of law in the Bangsamoro and its adjacent regions.

In his foreword in the BDA primer, Ebrahim acknowledged that nation-building is a daunting task particularly for the MILF.

“In the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, we are aware that our more than four decades of knowledge and experience in the struggle for the Bangsamoro right to self-determination are hardly sufficient and relevant,” he said.

Ebrahim said that because of this, the MILF hoped that “aid agencies and development partners that accompanied us early in our journey toward lasting peace and development, continue to walk with us … until we are able to jump-start a just economy that will provide equal access to livelihood, jobs, justice and security to all residents of the Bangsamoro in the short and medium terms.”

Troops capture another Abu Sayyaf camp

From MindaNews (Nov 1): Troops capture another Abu Sayyaf camp

Government troops captured another suspected Abu Sayyaf camp following a firefight Saturday in Patikul, Sulu, a military official said.

The camp was the fourth to fall since last month after government troops launched pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who are believed to be holding at least 10 more hostages.

Rear Admiral Raynaldo Yoma, Joint Task Force ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi) commander, said the firefight erupted at around 7:20 a.m. Saturday after government troops chanced upon a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Barangay Bungkaong.

Yoma said the firefight lasted for about five minutes, with the Abu Sayyaf bandits abandoning their camp and withdrawing to the hintherlands.

No one from the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion (IB) was reported killed or injured.

Yoma said the troops recovered during the clearing operation a combat boots, a poncho (coat), a hammock and a military pants.

Government troops have captured three Abu Sayyaf camps last month in Patikul town.
One of the camps has 47 bunkers and was captured by troops from the Army’s 32nd IB in Barangay Buhanginan.

The two other camps were captured by troops from the 35th IB in Barangay Kabuntakas.

One of the captured camps in Barangay Kabuntakas can accommodate 100 people while the other serves as a security outpost with a 10-person capacity.

Bombs rain on Abu camp

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 2): Bombs rain on Abu camp

Beheading threat sparks air strikes

THE Philippine Air Force launched air strikes against Abu Sayyaf extremists in Patikul, Sulu after the militants threatened to behead a Malaysian fish breeder they have held captive since June if they do not get the P40-million ransom they have been asking, the military said on Saturday.

Harold Cabunoc
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said MD 520-MG gunships launched the attack 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and dropped bombs at an Abu Sayyaf encampment at Sitio Sangay, Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul.

“We will not give these bandits time to rest. Our troops will continuously pursue them in their forest lairs,” Cabunoc said.

Government forces stepped up the offensive against the extremists, supposedly headed by sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, before a reconnaissance platoon of the 35th Infantry Battalion, under Lt. Col. Marces Gayat, clashed with the bandits in Barangay Bungkaong, also in Patikul, around 7:20 a.m.

The Sawadjaan group is believed to be the same group that detained German nationals Dr. Viktor Estefan Okonek and Henrike Dielsen, who were allegedly released after the payment of  some P250 million in ransom.

“We traded fire with them but they scampered away to different directions. There were blood stains along their route of withdrawal,” Gayat said in his after-battle report, adding that government troops.

No less than Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. have been closely overseeing operations since the release of the two Germans on the night of Oct. 17.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the Abu Sayyaf are still in custody of 11 captives, including two Europeans and two Malaysians while the rest are Filipinos.

The extremists are believed to have abducted ornithologists Ewold Horn of the Netherlands and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland, who have been captives since February 2012.

The Malaysian hostages are fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, who was seized from his fish farm in Kunak, Sabah on June 26, and Malaysian maritime policeman Zakiah Aleip, who was abducted at Mabul island last July 12.

But Guerrero did not mention Japanese treasure hunter Toshio Ito, who was kidnapped in Sulu on July 16, 2010. The military does not consider him a captive since they supposedly have information that he is cooperating with the Abu Sayyaf.

On Friday, the wife of fish breeder Chan called a press conference in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to appeal for Malaysian government help in raising the ransom for her husband.

“[The Abu Sayyaf] told me [on Thursday night] that they will send back Chan’s head if I fail to pay the ransom,” The Star of Malaysia quoted Chan’s wife Chin Pek Nyen as saying.

“I just do not know what to do. I tried raising the ransom by borrowing from friends and family [but] there’s no way I can raise it, how much can people lend me, I need the help of the government,” she said of the kidnappers’ demand of 3 million Malaysian ringgit.

She said the ransom demand has been reduced from RM15 million to RM10 million over the past months.

“They ask me if I have raised the money. Asked me if I have raised RM1 million. When I say no, they get angry and threatened to kill my husband. They call me up to 17 times a day, until I answer the call,” she said.

But Chin said she has not spoken with her husband since July 27 and she could not say for certain if he was safe and unhurt.

“They tell me he is all right [but] they refuse to let me speak to him. They call me at least once every two days,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said the Abu Sayyaf has also received last Wednesday P1 million in ransom for the release of an eight-year-old girl they kidnapped in July.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes said the family of the girl paid the ransom to a woman who served as collector for the kidnappers around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and the girl was released an hour later.

“[The girl was] freed by her captors at Jolo wharf after her father handed over P1 million in ransom money to the designated ransom taker, an unidentified woman,”
Delos Reyes said the ransom was made the Jolo Wharf and the girl was also released at another part of the wharf around 2:30 p.m.

The girl was abducted by four armed men from a store in her hometown in Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay on July 25, 2014.

Two rebel propagandists surrender

From the Manila Times (Nov 1): Two rebel propagandists surrender

TWO communist rebel propagandists—Richard Orang alias “Ka Jack” and Jomar Orang—surrendered to government troops in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte over the weekend.

The rebels are members of the Squad-3 of the Sandatahang Platon Propaganda-21C of the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee that operates in the hinterlands of Agusan del Norte.

The two who brought along with them two AK-47 assault rifles with four magazines and 119 rounds of live ammunitions said they decided to yield after years of hardship in the rebel movement.

Sulu Royal princesses to gather in Zamboanga

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 1): Sulu Royal princesses to gather in Zamboanga

Zamboanga City – About  150 Royal Princesses of the Sultanate of Sulu are coming to this city on November 17 for the First National Conference of Royal Princesses of the Sultanate of Sulu to be held  in one of the premier hotels here.

Datu Albi Dakula Julkarnain said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the event was signed Thursday at the Western Mindanao State University among the organizers and partners for the historic gathering.

According to Datu Julkarnain, it would be the first time that a conference of Royal Ladies will be held in the 100 years history of the Sultanate of Sulu.

Datu Julkarnain said the conference of Royal Ladies aims to bolster the commitment of the Royal Princesses to build peace and promote the general welfare of the “Ra’ayat of the Bangsa-Sug” of the Sulu Sultanate.

It will also encourage the Royal families of the  Sultanate of Sulu to unite and embrace their royal legacy and responsibility in preserving the Sulu beliefs, customs and traditions as followers of the Islam Faith.

Reds use boy as spy – Army

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 1): Reds use boy as spy – Army

Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija — The Philippine Army based in Compostela Valley has come across an 11-year-old boy allegedly used by a rebel group to monitor troop movements at the height of recent clashes in the province, a general revealed yesterday.

Major General Glorioso Miranda, 7th Infantry Division (7ID) commander, identified the boy as a native of Manay, Davao Oriental, who now resides with his grandparents in Purok Miapis, Sitio Boringot, Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Miranda said the boy admitted to elements of the Peace and Development Team (PDT) Bravo Company of the 71st Infantry Battalion (71IB) that a lawless armed group (LAG) had ordered him to monitor the activities of soldiers conducting Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in the area.

He said the purok leader was called to witness the revelations of the boy to ensure that his rights were protected while being interviewed by soldiers.

“This (use of the boy by the rebels) is another manifestation of disrespecting and violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) which was signed and agreed by both parties from the Government of Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) way back August 7, 1998,” Miranda said.

The child has been turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for proper disposition.

Air strike conducted against Abus in Sulu

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 2): Air strike conducted against Abus in Sulu

Government troops yesterday clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) during patrol operations in a forested area of Barangay Bungkaong in Patikul town, Sulu province, a military official said.

The encounter between the military and the bandit group, estimated to be five to 10 in number, took place around 7:20 a.m. Saturday.

Lt. Col. Marces Gayat, 35th Infantry Battalion commander, said his reconnaissance platoon was scouring a forested area in Barangay Bungkaong when they spotted the armed bandits.

“We traded fire with them but they scampered away to different directions. There were blood stains along their route of withdrawal,” he added.

First Lt. Chester Catapang led the assault on the fleeing bandits.

The troops also discovered an encampment with their belongings.

Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, directed the MG-520 attack helicopters to provide close air support as troopers closely followed the bandits.

High explosive ordnance munitions were dropped by the attack helicopters to areas where the ASG band was last last seen.

“We will not give these bandits time to rest. Our troops will continuously pursue them in their forest lairs,” he said.

Arrojado said the air strike took place 6: 30 a.m.

The air strike was staged after the military learned of the presence of 150 ASG bandits in the area.

Reports said the brigands were in the area as early as Friday night.

The group, led by one Hatib Adjan Sawadjaan, was behind the abduction of the two German tourists — Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71 and Henrike Dielen, 55, who were released last October 17 allegedly after a ransom was paid.

The military earlier said that full-scale combat rescue mission will continue for the remaining ASG hostages.Among the 10 kidnap victims believed to be still in the hands of the bandit group are five foreigners - European birdwatchers Ewold Horn and citizen Lorenzo Vinciguerra; Japanese treasure hunter Mamaito Katayama, Malaysian Zakiah Aleip, and mother and daughter, Dina Lim and Yahong Lim Tan.

Photo -- Scared, seek help

Posted to the pro-CPP Davao Today (Oct 31): Photo -- Scared, seek help

A tribal mother and child join the rally in front of the Commission of Human Rights Region XI demanding the removal of encampment of the Army's 66th IBin there community. (Ace R. Morandante/

A tribal mother and child join the rally in front of the Commission of Human Rights Region XI demanding the removal of encampment of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) in their community. (Ace R. Morandante/

Photo: Hopeful

Posted to the pro-CPP Davao Today (Oct 31): Photo: Hopeful

Alleged New People's Army guerrilla Vanessa Delos Reyes hopes that all the charges levelled against her by the government military would be dismissed for humanitarian reasons due to her disability. She is photographed during the first hearing of her arraignment at the Hall of Justice in Davao City. (Ace R. Morandante/

Alleged New People’s Army guerrilla Vanessa Delos Reyes hopes that all the charges levelled against her by the government military would be dismissed for humanitarian reasons due to her disability. She is photographed during the first hearing of her arraignment at the Hall of Justice in Davao City. (Ace R. Morandante/

CPP: Video -- Allan Juanito on POWs

Propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Oct 31): Video: Allan Juanito on POWs

Philippine military bombs Sayyaf stronghold, troops clash with militants

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 1): Philippine military bombs Sayyaf stronghold, troops clash with militants

Government troops, backed by helicopter gunships, assaulted an Abu Sayyaf stronghold on Saturday in the southern Philippine province of Sulu where security forces are battling militants holding more than a dozen Filipino and foreign hostages, officials said.

Officials said army soldiers traded automatic gunfire with militants and engaged them in a running battle in the remote village of Bungkaong in Patikul town. Troops also seized an abandoned Abu Sayyaf encampment in the village.

Marines also clashed with another Abu Sayyaf group in Mount Langgal also in Patikul town, but there were no reports of casualties on both sides.

The militants managed to escape deeper into the hinterlands, but a pair of MD-520 MG helicopters dropped high-explosive ordnance munitions on Abu Sayyaf targets in the area, according to army Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Force Group-Sulu.

Arrojado said Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Catapang has ordered military commanders to maintain pressure to force the Abu Sayyaf to release all their hostages. “We will not give these bandits time to rest. Our troops will continuously pursue them in their forest lairs,” he said.

There was no immediate report of Abu Sayyaf casualties, but Lt. Col. Marces Gayat, commander of the 35th Infantry Battalion that clashed with the Abu Sayyaf, said reconnaissance troops spotted blood stains in areas where the militants fled.

“We traded fires with them, but they scampered away to different directions. There were blood stains along their route of withdrawal,” Gayat said, adding, there were no signs of the hostages in the area.

The military said the militants are hiding in civilian communities and have moved their hostages from one hideout to another making it extremely difficult for security forces to track them down.

The clash occurred two days after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin inspected troops in Sulu. He was accompanied by Armed Forces’ Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Catapang and Western Mindanao military commander General Rustico Guererro, and Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, who are in-charge of the operations against the Abu Sayyaf. Gazmin spoke with soldiers inside a military base in the capital town of Jolo.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding a Malaysian policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, who was seized on June 12 also this year following a clash in Sabah that killed another policeman. The militants are demanding 5 million ringgits (P68.3 million).

They are also threatening to behead another kidnapped Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, if ransom is not paid by his family this November. The militants are demanding 3 million ringgits (P41 million) for the safe release of the fish breeder, who was kidnapped along with a Filipino worker on June 16 this year from a fish farm in the town of Kunak in Tawau District in Sabah.

Aside from the Malaysians, the militants are still holding hostage a 64-year old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010; and two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in the southern Tawi-Tawi province in 2012. And several Filipinos kidnapped in other provinces and brought to Sulu.

It was the first time that security forces clashed with the Abu Sayyaf following the October 17 release of two German yachters Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, in exchange for P250 million ransoms. The duo was heading to Sabah in Malaysia on a private yacht from a holiday in Palawan province when militants who were returning to the southern Philippines from a failed kidnapping in Sabah spotted the Germans and seized them on April 25.

The Abu Sayyaf also freed an eight-year old girl on October 29 after her father paid an undetermined ransom to the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo town. The girl was kidnapped in July 25 in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Olutanga town and brought to Sulu, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region.