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Notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Muammar Askali alias “Abu Rami” was among the six suspected terrorists killed in the Bohol encounter on Tuesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año confirmed yesterday.
A military source earlier said that the Abu Sayyaf bandits spotted in Bohol was led by Askali who was earlier monitored in Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.
“Yes, Abu Rami is among those Abu Sayyaf killed in the Bohol operation. His body was recovered by security forces,” Año said during an interview.
“A total of six killed among the enemies (as) our troops recovered another body on the site of encounter,” he added.
Año said that the death of Abu Rami, who had participated in the Samal kidnappings is a big blow to the terrorist group.
“Well this is a very big accomplishment and a big blow against the Abu Sayyaf. Abu Rami is a very notorious Abu sayyaf leader who even acted as their spokesman before,” Año said.
Año said Askali had been blamed for the beheadings of two Canadians and a German hostage and was reportedly on another kidnapping mission when encountered by government security forces.
“He was involved in controversial and famous kidnapping incidents like the kidnapping in Samal, the kidnapping of the Canadians; and the German kidnap victims. Maybe we can attribute a lot of atrocities to Abu Rami,” he added.
Año said troops took the picture of Askali after his death. Captured ASG men identified the young militant leader.
Año said Abu Rami was being groomed as one of the future leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“He is being eyed as one of the future leaders of the ASG that can be affiliated with ISIS. So you know he is trying to make a name of his own, trying to arrange a career by replacing Radulan Sahiron,” Año said.
Año further revealed that Abu Rami and his men went to Bohol to kidnap local and foreign tourists.
“Their target are the tourists there whether local or foreign. Fortunately we are able to thwart the plans before they can even implement it,” he said.
“And you know the AFP and the PNP are working silently and effectively,” he said.
Año said the siege is already over and the situation is returning to normal.
“I can declare that the threat is over successfully after the siege in Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol although we are still pursuing some of the remnants of the groups,” Año said.
“Our assault on them continues even as we scour the area,” he added.
Año, at the same time, warned the Abu Sayyaf to think twice before launching attacks in other parts of the country as security forces are ready to meet them head on.
“Our security forces is working challengingly and effectively as they thwarted their plans to sow terror in the area,” Año said.
“I recognized the heroism of our soldiers, for doing the ultimate sacrifice as fastest as possible. I also acknowledge the help of the citizens who reported to authorities the presence of the armed men,” he added.
The AFP earlier said that six Abu Sayyaf bandits, three soldiers – including a junior officer, and a policeman were killed while another soldier and a policeman were wounded during the encounter between security forces and the terrorist group in Bohol on Tuesday.
In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, said the firefight took place at Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol, at about 7 a.m.
He said government troops and the police encountered at least 10 suspected members of the terrorist group in the area.
Aside from the death of the six Abu Sayyaf gunmen, police recovered high powered firearms which include three M16 and one M14 rifles plus one IED (improvised explosive device).
One of the soldiers killed was an Army 2nd lieutenant.
Arevalo said they have not released yet the names of the killed soldiers and policeman pending notification of their kins.
Arevalo said military officials in the area have yet to determine the motive of the Abu Sayyaf in entering Bohol.
“They only arrived there last night. We have yet to ascertain if this (ASG presence) has any relation to the United States Embassy advisory,” Arevalo said.
In its advisory released Friday last week, the US Embassy said that it received “unsubstantiated yet credible information” of the threat, especially on their citizens in the country.
Año said additional forces from the Army, Air Force, and the Navy are now onsite to assist AFP personnel and other law enforcers in running after the remnants of the group. (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)