MANILA—The military is very positive that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Muamar Askali alias “Abu Rami” was among the six bandits killed during clash with government security forces in Inabanga, Bohol Tuesday morning.
This was after the picture of the slain bandit matched “99 percent” with existing file photos of the ASG leader, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año in press conference Wednesday.
“First, we have sources inside that initially told us that Abu Rami was among those killed during the encounter. Secondly, we compared the picture of Abu Rami and the picture of the slain Abu Sayyaf there in Inabanga and they resembled almost 99 percent,” he added.
The slain bandit’s identity was further confirmed when the ASG members, in government custody, positively identified former as Askali, who is also serving as the group’s spokesperson.
“Abu Rami” is believed to one of the planners of the Samal Island raid which resulted in the kidnapping of Canadians John Ridsel, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstand and Filipina Marites Flor last Sept. 21, 2015.
Both Canadians were beheaded while Sekkingstand and Flor were later released by their ASG captors.
Askali was also behind the kidnapping and beheading of German Jurgen Kantner and murder of his partner Sabine Mertz in November last year.
Año said that in both instances, the ASG leader was present in the beheading.
With this development, Año is very confident that a crippling blow has been dealt to the lawless group.
“We have successfully thwarted an attempt to destroy the peace and security of one of our provinces with the combined determination of our AFP and your PNP (Philippine National Police), as well as the full cooperation of our citizenry and our local government units in Bohol. May this be a fine example of ‘Bayanihan’ in the true sense of the word and the strengthening of our commitment as a nation to work together against those who contemplate on hurting our people and communities,” he added.
The AFP chief said they are now conducting pursuit operations against the remaining five members of Akali’s group and their “Balik Islam” contact in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga town.
Motive of the group in making their Bohol landing seemed to be the abduction of tourists now to be frequenting the province.
“Their motive is aimed at kidnapping tourists rather than conducting any terror activities,” Año said.
He added that they are well aware of the bandits’ activities as they were detected in Indanan, Sulu last April 6 and 7 before making their departure for Bohol.
Their arrival aboard three pump boats in Inabangan, Bohol last April 10 was detected, thanks to the reports of civilians in the area, the AFP chief stated.
This prompted government security forces in the area to deploy troops and cordon the area which eventually led to the death of Askali and five other bandits, along with three troopers and one police officer.