By Nonoy Lacson
ZAMBOANGA CITY – A man considered as a healer and imam by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and two close aides surrendered to the 45th Infantry Battalion (IB) at the Forward Operating Base of the Philippine Army at Barangay Tugas, Patikul, Sulu, and turned-over two high powered firearms.
Army 11th Division Commander Maj. Gen Corelito Vinluan said the three surrendered to soldiers on Friday, June 19, but declined to identify the alleged imam and his two cohorts.
Vinluan said the relentless effort of the soldiers to locate ASG members wounded in recent encounters led to the discovery of a “hospital for ASGs” in Barangay Libug-Kabao in Panglima Estino Municipality, a neighboring town of Patikul.
Upon learning of the ASG “hospital”, soldiers of the 45th IB (gallant troopers) immediately established and conducted a Civil-Military Operations (CMO) and Intelligence Operations in the village that resulted in the surrender of the imam and his two aides, Vinluan added.
Emphasizing that “the Imam was no an ordinary Muslim religious leader”, Vinluan said “he was also considered doctor or healer of wounded ASG members for decades.”
He said the soldiers were at the village searching for some of the ASG that fled to Barangay of Libug-Kabao in Panglima Estino Municipality, a neighboring town of Patikul when they learned about the ASG hospital in the area.
The village of Latih in Patikul, Sulu was the site of an encounter last 22 April 2020 where the ASG suffered one of their biggest defeats in an encounter with the military in Sulu this year.
According to Vinluan, in that clash with the bandits, the military recovered the bodies of three ASGs, while the rest who were believed killed or wounded were taken by their comrades during their withdrawal towards Barangay Libug-Kabao.