Duterte to visit Basilan amid offensive vs Abu Sayyaf

Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2016 12:33 AM

BASILAN - President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Basilan on Thursday, amid the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in the province.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman said Duterte is expected to be at the 104th Army Brigade in Tabiawan, Isabela City by midday on Thursday.

"He will be meeting with police and military officials, as well as the governor and the mayors of the different cities and municipalities," Hataman said.

Hataman is set to bring to the attention of Duterte the issue on security.

Recent clashes between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf Group have caused more than 3,000 families from three municipalities to flee their homes.

For almost three weeks now, they have been staying with relatives in neighboring towns.

Classes have not resumed since the start of the military offensive.

The displaced families are now calling on the President to put a stop on the conflict in Basilan.

"Namatay na mga kambing namin doon," said Sara Alimuddin, a resident of Barangay Sungkayot.

Alimuddin said their family longs to go home to resume livelihood and for her children to be able to go back to school.

On Wednesday, Hataman, together with the provincial government, distributed relief assistance to the displaced families in the town hall of Tipo-Tipo.

Separate relief operations were also conducted for the evacuees of Al Barka and Ungkaya Pukan municipalities.

In Al-Barka town, 758 families fled their homes in fear of getting caught in the crossfire, while 900 families from Ungkaya Pukan also sought safe grounds.

As of Tuesday night, mortar shelling and air strikes continued in the area where the military believes the bandits are holed in.

Nasra Haron, OIC-municipal social welfare and development officer claimed some houses, a mosque, a masjid, and an elementary school were among those damaged by the military offensive.

Hataman said intelligence reports state that fewer than 100 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group are left in the area.

Those that came from Sulu who earlier reinforced their comrades in Basilan have already left the island province, Hataman said.

Hataman also disclosed that they received information that ASG leader Furiji Indama has been wounded, while another report stated that the bandit group commander has already died.

Hataman, however, could not confirm either of the reports.