Despite intensified military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf, the ISIL-linked terrorists struck anew, abducting a Filipino public school teacher in the southern island province of Sulu.
Colonel Cirilito Sobejana Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, confirmed on Saturday that the Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped a teacher of the Jolo National High School.
He identified the teacher as Ibrahim Potong, who was driving his motorcycle home to Maimbung town when he was abducted Friday afternoon.
“The bandits seized the teacher and fled towards an unknown direction,” he said. “Pursuit operation is ongoing.”
The abduction of Potong has brought the number of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf to 32 including 12 Vietnamese nationals, seven Indonesians, six Filipinos, five Malaysians and one Dutch.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had earlier expressed embarrassment over the increase in the number of hostages abducted by the Abu Sayyaf during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to Lorenzana, the kidnapping in the south has not abated since the President was inaugurated in June 30 and it’s very embarrassing to the whole world.
He added before there were only 18 hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf, now there are more than 30.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines made clear the kidnappings were not because of President Duterte, underlining the military has made headway in the situation.
Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said troops have already killed more than 32 Abu Sayyaf members including sub-leaders and injured twenty-two of them in focused military operations in the south.
On Thursday, a kin of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and three of his followers were killed in gun battle with troops in Basilan.
Last month, Hapilon fled to Lanao province in central Mindanao to join the Maute group. He was reported to have been seriously injured in an airstrike launched by the military against the local terror group in Butig town.
Also Tuesday, the main Abu Sayyaf leader was reported to have been injured in an encounter with troops in Poona Babayao, Lanao del Sur.
Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US government.
Ther ISIS in its propaganda video posed on social media declared Hapilon as its leader in Southeast Asia and “emir” of the militant group in the Philippines.
Since 1991, the group — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.