ZAMBOANGA CITY – Local government officials in the island province of Sulu have been challenged to join the fight against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, made the challenge on Tuesday following the Abu Sayyaf’s beheading of a Moro soldier, who has been working to uplift the living conditions of his tribe in the province of Sulu.
“They have to join the fight. It will be shameful if they will allow the Abu Sayyaf bandits to disrespect them as elected officials,” Galvez said.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits abducted and beheaded SSgt. Anni Siraji, a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatant who was integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines in line with the final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.
Government troops recovered on Sunday the remains of Siraji, who was assigned with the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, in Barangay Taglibi, Patikul, Sulu.
Siraji was buried on Monday at a Muslim cemetery in this city.
He was described as an MNLF member who traded his rifle to become a peace maker and an agent of development to his fellow Tausugs in Sulu.
Galvez said the elected officials in Sulu should follow what their counterparts in Basilan province have done–join the fight against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Galvez said mayors and barangay officials in Basilan have joined the military’s efforts to crush the Abu Sayyaf there.
He said these officials joined the fight since they “felt insulted as the Basilan-based ASG disrespected them as well as the law of the country.”
He said this is the reason why the strength of the ASG is dwindling in Basilan province.
Isnilon Hapilon, the only remaining among the top five Basilan-based ASG leaders, has been reported to have fled to Lanao del Sur and joined the Maute terror group.
The other four Basilan-based top ASG leaders were killed in separate firefight with government troops. They included Khadafy Janjalani, Aldam Tilao alias Abu Sabaya, Hamsiraji Sali and Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Sulaiman. Teofilo Garcia Jr./PNA-northboundasia.com