ZAMBONGA CITY -- Gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) abducted a former Moro rebel, now a ranking soldier, Thursday, April 20, in Sulu.
Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Cirilito Sobejana Jr. said a group of seven Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji around 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Igasan, Patikul, Sulu. Siraji, a native of Sulu, is a former combatant of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
He is assigned with the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion and joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines through an integration program of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF.
Siraji was about to buy chicken from the residents in Barangay Igasan, when the bandits captured him.
“The perpetrators were believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group of still unknown commander,” Sobejana said.
The Sulu police reported the suspects are led by a certain Julhasan, a follower of ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadajaan.
Hot pursuit operations “at the general area where the abductors fled” were launched immediately, Sobejana said.
“All operating troops were alerted and tasked to conduct pursuit and blocking operations within the immediate vicinity,” he added.
“The recent abduction incident involving our soldier should not be a reason for us to back out but should further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims,” the military official said.
The town of Patikul is “one of the main target areas of the military offensives for three months now, as it was reported to be a known stronghold of the bandits.”
Western Mindanao Command Chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said the abduction is a desperate attempt of the ASG to pressure the military to slow down its offensive against them.
“It is frustrating that a Tausug soldier, who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come in his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe,” Galvez said.
He urged the residents in Sulu to collectively help the military to end the menace of the ASG.
“I firmly believe that as long as we are together on this, we will be able to disallow these bandits to continue creating havoc and fear to everyone,” Galvez said.
“For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)