Photos of slain ASG leader Albader Parad, courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 8) - A leader of Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was confirmed to be among the 6 bandits killed in a gun battle in Maimbung, Sulu province Sunday, the military said.
The military on Sunday said they encountered the group of ASG top leaders Albader Parad and Gumbahali Abu Jumdail alias Abu Pula or Dr. Abu, in Sitio Kandang Tukay in Barangay Karawan around 7 a.m., killing 6 bandits.
Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, in a text message, confirmed Parad's death.
"We have confirmed that one of the 6 bodies belong to Albader Parad as confirmed by four independent civilian sources," he said in a text message.
Parad was an Abu Sayyaf leader who led the abduction of 3 Red Cross workers last year.
"They (Parad and his men) were the targets of this operation,” Joint Task Force Comet chief Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero told local radio. “We are running after the leaders of this notorious Abu Sayyaf group."
“Ito ay resulta ng matagal na intelligence work, Nag-resulta din ito after more than 3 months. And we also attribute this to the coopertion of the community who are already tired of the atrocities and violent activities of this group in the Indanan, Maimbung and Parang areas,” said Guerrero in a separate interview.
He also confirmed that 4 witnesses came to confirm Parad’s body.
“Meron tayong apat na credible independent civilian witnesses na pumunta rito para ma-identify ang katawan ni Albader Parad,” said the Joint Task Force Comet chief.
A statement from the Philippine Navy said that an “elite composite group of Marines from 2nd and 3rd Marine Brigades based in Sulu clashed with the bandit group.”
Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, video grab courtesy of Nickee Butlangan
Earlier reports said 3 government soldiers were wounded in the gun battle. Dolorfino would later report that 1 soldier also died in the armed encounter with the bandit group. Guerrero said the government fatality was a member of the Philippine Marines.
The 5 other slain ASG members were identified as Omar Umbah, a.k.a. “Ben Kuting,” Hamilton Sadjael, Pula’s nephew Simal Abtong, Pula’s brother Abdulhan Jumdail, and Udin Serael.
Guerrero said that they are finalizing documentation and processing of the medical report so that the bodies would be turned over to the families of the slain ASG members or to an imam so that the bodies could already be buried Sunday night.
A 16-year-old civilian was also reported to have been wounded in the fighting.
Denden Adjing was reported have been tending to his family’s durian plants when the gun battle occurred. He was taken to Sulu Provincial Hospital for treatment.
Authorities said, however, that they will still probe Adjing on possible involvement with the bandit group. Adjing’s mother meanwhile appealed for financial assistance for her son’s treatment.
Several high powered firearms were also recovered after the clash with troops. Dolorfino said government troops recovered a Belgian FN rifle, a squad automatic weapon (SAW) machine gun and 2 M203 grenade launchers.
"The fighting has ceased. We are trying to stabilize the area now," Guerrero added.
Acting on intelligence information, troops from the Marine Battalion Landing 4 were dispatched to the Abu Sayyaf encampment in Sitio Kandang Tukay, said Dolorfino.
Dolorfino said the clash lasted for about 2 hours, after which the terrorists withdrew leaving behind the bodies of the 6 bandits.
Parad's gang snatched Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni in January last year while working on a Jolo humanitarian mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Bodies of slain Abu Sayyaf bandits, video grab courtesy of Nickee Butlangan
Lacaba and Notter were freed April and Vagni was released in July.
Troops have since launched massive operations against the group on Jolo, where the militants are well entrenched in the rugged jungles of the island's interior.
The Abu Sayyaf is a self-styled group of Islamic militants blamed for the country's worst attacks, including the bombing of a passenger ferry on Manila Bay that killed over 100 people in 2004.
It is on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Parad is among the Abu Sayyaf personalities wanted by the US government, which has earmarked P1 million reward for his neutralization. Also, the Philippine government has raised a P7 million for his neutralization
Parad has been tagged as among the bandits who seized 21 Asian and European tourists and a Filipino in April 2000 from Sipadan Island Diving Resort in Sandakan in Sabah in Malaysia.
He was also allegedly the leader of the bandit group who nabbed 7 persons last 2007 in Parang in Sulu. The heads of the 6 workers government in a government road project and dried fish factory laborer were later found in separate areas from their bodies after their families failed to pay a ransom demand.
Parad’s group was also tagged as behind the kidnapping early 2008 of Maria Rosalie Lao, 58, a rice trader in Jolo, capital town of Sulu province.
Dolorfino said the military considers Sunday's clash as a big accomplishment.
"This is a very significant gain in our campaign against terrorism. Albader is the most influential Abu Sayyaf leader. This is a big blow to them (Abu Sayyaf), his death," said Dolorfino.
The Abu Sayyaf members usually drag their dead, along with their wounded, following clashes, he noted.
"We seldom recover enemy body. The mere fact that we recovered 6 bodies and 4 firearms, this means that this is a very big accomplishment, this means that we surprised the enemy," the Marine general said.
Dolorfino could not say if members of the Southeast Asian regional terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah, which is said to be based in Sulu, were among those encountered.
Dolorfino said there was no mention of it in the reports he got from the field.
3 remaining leaders
The death of Parad, meanwhile, leaves the bandit group with 3 known leaders - Isnilon Hapilon, Radullan Sahiron and Jumdail or Dr. Abu.
Jumdail, meanwhile, is largely acknowledged as among the first Abu Sayyaf leaders on Jolo. He is popularly known as Dr. Abu Pula because he had often acted as the group's senior medic on the battlefield, intelligence officials say.
Sunday's fighting came just 3 days after authorities arrested another alleged Abu Sayyaf member who had been on the run for 9 years.
Jumadail Arad was allegedly on a mission to buy firearms for the group when he was arrested Thursday in a joint navy and police intelligence operation.
The military said Arad was the driver of a speedboat used by the Abu Sayyaf in a 2001 raid on a Philippine island resort in which a Christian missionary couple and a fellow American were kidnapped.
One of them was beheaded as a warning to pursuing troops while a second was killed in the raid that successfully recovered the third member of the group.
Several Filipinos were also kidnapped but most either escaped or were released, allegedly after ransom payments.
Arad is himself not an Abu Sayyaf leader, although he is a known associate of Isnilon Hapilon, one of the group's commanders on Jolo island that has a $5-million bounty on his head offered by the US government. – Reports from abs-cbnNEWS.com, David Santos, Leila Vicente and Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN Zamboanga, Nickee Butlangan and Agence-France Presse