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ASG leader killed in clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY – An Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leader responsible for the beheading of seven factory workers in Sulu in 2007 was killed in an encounter in Sulu Friday.

Alhabsi Misaya was shot dead by elements of the Marine Reconnaissance Force following a brief shootout at 9:35 p.m. in Silangkan, Parang.

Reports said that Misaya resisted and fired at the approaching soldiers. His body was brought to Camp Gen. Teodolfo Bautista Hospital in Jolo, Sulu.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año has confirmed Misaya’s death and nobody was killed or wounded from the government side.

Año would not provide specific details of the operation, saying it is part of the focused military operations targeting ASG commanders and groups.

“We could not give details yet because it may jeopardize the on-going follow-up operations,” said Ano.

According to the military, Misaya, then a junior member of the ASG, recorded the beheading and posted in on YouTube.

In that 14-minute video clip, the alleged voice of Misaya can be heard reciting Quranic verses as the first hostage is made to lie face down before his head is pulled back by one of the ASG and severed with “barung,” a leaf-shaped, single-edged knife used by Muslims.

The victims, all working in a nearby plywood factory, were abducted by the group of Misaya. They were beheaded after their company refused to pay ransom for their freedom.

Misaya has since risen from the ranks, making millions of pesos in ransom money from the spate of kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah.

The military said Misaya was also involved in the abduction of 10 Indonesian sailors off the waters off Tawi-Tawi last year. It is also believed that Misaya has also financed previous cross-border kidnappings in Sabah by providing fuel money, boats, and firearms.

There were reports that Misaya was being protected by certain quarters within the military who considered him an “asset.”

A source said that the death of Misaya, a native of Barangay Bunot, Indanan, Sulu, will lead to the further demoralization of the ASG and leadership vacuum. The source expressed confidence that other members of the ASG will also be neutralized as operations continue to defeat them.

Misaya has a warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom.

A bomb expert, Misaya was also allegedly involved in the October 2002 Malagutay bombing in Zamboanga City that killed US serviceman Sgt. Mark Jackaon and wounded 23 others, including another US serviceman; the January 2009 bombing of the Salaam Bridge in Barangay Bato-Bato in Indanan, and the March 2011 bombing of the Dennis Coffee Shop in Barangay San Raymundo in Jolo that killed four civilians and wounded 11 others.