Abu Sayyaf sub-leader killed in central Philippines

Delia Watkins
April 13, 2017

Philippine security forces have killed the "media-savvy" Abu Sayyaf leader who appeared in several videos of hostage executions.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año on Wednesday confirmed that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Abu Rami was one of the six bandits killed in the encounter with government troops in Inabanga town, Bohol.

Ano said the troops were still hunting for at least five Abu Sayyaf gunmen, though fighting had eased Wednesday.

Ano said Abu Rami had been involved in a series of kidnapping incidents.

At least nine people are said to have been killed - five gunmen, three soldiers and a policeman.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from its main Jolo base in the south where the military has been waging an offensive in recent months.

He used to announce in the local radio station whenever the Abu Sayyaf group issued ransom demands in exchange for the release of foreign hostages.

With this development, the AFP chief said the ASG must think twice of challenging government security forces and trying to sow terror, the AFP chief stressed.

USA and Australian authorities earlier warned of "unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings" in Bohol and the nearby province of Cebu.

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Ano said the gang, which arrived on three boats, had planned to acclimatise in the area and send scouts into resorts to scope out kidnapping targets.

The military chief said Askali had led a group of militants who traveled by speedboats to Bohol province in an apparent bid to carry out a kidnapping in the region, which is popular for its beach resorts and wildlife.

It is the Abu Sayyaf's first known attempt to carry out ransom kidnappings deep in the heartland of the central Philippines, far from its jungle lairs in the southern provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

In 2001, they sailed as far as western Palawan province, where they seized 20 people from a resort.

The government also says it has credible intelligence that some Abu Sayyaf leaders are in contact with Islamic State with a view to establishing a presence in the mainly Muslim southern Philippines.

In the first half of past year, the militants raised 353 million pesos ($7 million) in payments from ransom kidnappings, according to the report.

The United States and the Philippines each consider Abu Sayyaf to be a terrorist organization.

The German, Mr Jurgen Kantner, 70, a sailing enthusiast who survived after being held for almost two months by Somali pirates eight years ago, was beheaded in February, after talks for his release in exchange for a 30-million-peso (S$851,000) ransom collapsed.

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