MANILA—Kidnapping of local and foreign tourists frequenting Bohol’s lovely beaches is the sole mission of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) band which landed in Inabanga town on April 11, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Tuesday.
This as he dismissed earlier claims that the brigands were out to attack or abduct ASEAN delegates in the province for the Intersessional Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Trade Negotiating Committee ASEAN Caucus Meeting which will be held at the Hennan Resort in Panglao Island from April 19 to 21.
Representatives from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and the Philippines, this year’s ASEAN host, will attend the meetings.
“As far as initial information of the AFP, the ASG bandits whom our troops encountered in Inabanga town are only out for kidnapping (and having them ransomed if successful),” he added in Filipino.
In the Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo clash last April 11, four ASG bandits were killed, including Muanmar Askali alias “Abu Rami” and three soldiers and one police officer, aside from an elderly couple whose presence in the encounter site is still being investigated.
Still at- large are five to seven ASG “stragglers” whom the military said is unarmed and unlikely to cause further trouble.
Arevalo said it is very unlikely that the bandits can attack the ASEAN delegates as the venue where they will be holding the meeting is well secured by government security forces.
Earlier, the AFP said the ASG is forced to look for kidnapping victims from afar due to the incessant military pressure in their enclaves in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Lack of kidnapping opportunities is causing financial difficulties for the group as they no longer have sufficient funds to buy weapons, food, and the loyalties of the communities they are hiding in.