MANILA - Security forces are hunting down 3 Abu Sayyaf terrorists who escaped a gun battle in Bohol province over the weekend, Governor Edgardo Chatto said Monday.
The three, Chatto said, had hidden in a cave in Clarin town with several others bandits who escaped a government siege that killed 6 of their comrades in Inabanga town last April 11.
A civilian tipped off their location to authorities on Saturday, prompting a firefight that killed 4 more terrorists, Joselito Melloria, a Boholano who had led the bandit group into his hometown.
Authorities are searching the villages of Bacani and Caboy in Clarin and Ilihan in Inabanga for the 3 Abu Sayyaf men who are still at large, Chatto said.
The fugitives were reportedly wounded, said Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the military's public affairs office.
The governor said at least 1,500 residents were evacuated from the area.
REWARD FOR HABAL-HABAL DRIVER
The military is also verifying reports that a habal-habal driver led authorities to Melloria's group.
The driver supposedly reported the possible presence of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Clarin after becoming suspicious of his smelly passengers.
"Kung mapapatunayan natin na siya ay naging susi sa pagtuturo ng kinalalagyan, entitled po siya sa pabuyang ipinangako ng ating Commander in Chief," Arevalo said.
(If we prove that he was a key in tracing their location, he will be entitled to a reward promised by our Commander in Chief.)
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier offered a P1-million bounty for each of the bandits who were still on the loose.
The military has been struggling to wipe out Abu Sayyaf, which originally had Muslim separatist aims but now engages mostly in banditry and piracy.
The group has been holding more than 2 dozen captives, most of them Vietnamese sailors, who are easy prey for militants equipped with small, fast boats. -- With Reuters