Two military choppers dropped some 14,000 leaflets Thursday, December 17, 2009 over six towns in the southern Basilan province urging citizens to help authorities recapture 28 Abu Sayyaf terrorists and Moro rebels who bolted jail last week. Soldiers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Hayudini, commander of the military's Civil Relations Group in Western Mindanao, also posted wanted Sayyaf posters in Isabela City in Basilan and authorities have offered as much as ten million pesos reward to anyone who can provide information about the prisoners, who were among 31 that escaped from the provincial jail on December 13. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 17, 2009) – Two Philippine military choppers dropped some 14,000 leaflets on Thursday over a large area in Basilan province urging citizens to help authorities recapture 28 Abu Sayyaf terrorists and Moro rebels who bolted jail last week.
Authorities have offered as much as ten million pesos reward to anyone who can provide information about the prisoners, who were among 31 that escaped from the provincial jail on December 13.
Troops had killed one prisoner – an Abu Sayyaf militant – and captured two more this week in Isabela City in Basilan, several nautical miles by boat from Zamboanga City.
Two military choppers dropped leaflets over six towns in Basilan and foot soldiers posted wanted Abu Sayyaf posters around Isabela. “This is part of our campaign to track down terrorists who escaped from jail,” Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Hayudini, commander of the military’s Civil Relations Group in Western Mindanao, told the independent newspaper the Mindanao Examiner.
Hayudini led soldiers in the distribution of leaflets – both written in local dialect and English - in the capital city of Isabela.
The leaflets contained the names of those who bolted prison and their corresponding rewards from P100,000 up to P2 million and phone numbers where citizens can call up authorities and provide information about the prisoners, mostly Abu Sayyaf militants and Moro rebels who are facing a string of murder and kidnapping charges in Basilan.
Security forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf in Basilan on Wednesday leaving three militants and a soldier dead, said Brigadier General Eugene Clemen, commander of military forces in the province.
“The operation against the terrorists is continuing. The hunt for the jail breakers and their rescuers are going on,” he said.
On Tuesday, authorities rewarded P350,000 to a civilian who helped security forces tracked down two prisoners in Isabela City. Philippine Navy regional chief Alexander Pama and Marine Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino handed the reward to the man, his face covered to hide his identity from possible retaliation from the Abu Sayyaf.
One of the prisoners – an Abu Sayyaf militant - was killed after he resisted arrest in the village of Maligue.
Basilan jail warden Julmaril Sali said 17 of those who escaped from prison were Abu Sayyaf militants and 5 are members of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front – two of them commanders – while the rest were hardened criminals.
The prisoners escaped after more than 100 gunmen stormed the provincial jail in the village of Sumagdang in Isabela City. A jail guard and one of the attackers were killed in the raid.
Authorities said the attack was carried out by the Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels.
The MILF denied it was involved in the raid, but admitted that one of those who escaped from the jail is a rebel commander, Dan Asnawi, accused by the military of beheading 10 soldiers in a firefight in Basilan.
Police and jail officials said another MILF rebel – Kamsa Limaya - also escaped together with the others, but Kabalu said the prisoner is not their member. Limaya is said to be involved in the July 2007 beheading of the soldiers in the town of Al Barka.
It was the fourth time in five years that prisoners had escaped from the provincial jail. At least 3 Abu Sayyaf prisoners – tagged as behind the beheading of 10 soldiers in Basilan – also escaped in December 2008 from the provincial jail after overpowering their guards.
And in July 2007, at least 16 hardened criminals, including four Abu Sayyaf militants, escaped from the prison after destroying the windows of their cell.
In April 2004, at least 53 of the more than 130 prisoners at the provincial jail, including 19 Abu Sayyaf members, also escaped using a smuggled .45-caliber pistol which they used in overpowering the guards. (Mindanao Examiner)