SEVEN members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, including a potential Islamic State of Iraq and Syria emir in the country, were reported killed after a helicopter gunship and a Navy attack craft assaulted and sank their boat off Sulu early morning yesterday.
Three of those killed were identified as Madsmar, Mannul, and Mujapar, all surnamed Sawadjaan, while the identities of the four others are yet to be known, said AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan.
Vinluan said Madsmar is a brother of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan whom the military has tagged as the mastermind behind recent suicide bombings in Sulu. He said Mannul and Mujapar are Mundi’s cousins.
An Augusta attack helicopter from the Philippine Air Force and a multi-purpose attack craft from the Philippine Navy launched the interdiction operation at around 2 p.m. near Sulare Island in Parang town.
Vinluan said the seven Abu Sayyaf members opened fire at the Navy vessel, which retaliated with machine guns before ramming the boat which was cut in half as a result.
Asked if the helicopter fired rockets, Vinluan said:”Yes, it fired. Then the Navy (vessel) rammed it (boat of the ASG members), the boat was cut in half – one recovered by troops while the other half sank.”
Found in the recovered part of the boat were three rifles, two of which had M203 grenade launchers.
As of yesterday afternoon, Navy divers were deployed to search for the bodies of the Abu Sayyaf members while helicopters and Navy assets are conducting search on the water surface, said Vinluan.
“No one’s going to survive that… We are still trying to recover their body, we have yet to find them,” said Vinluan. The Joint Task Force referred to the seven Abu SAyyaf men as “reportedly killed.”
Vinluan said informants reported to the military the whereabouts of the Sawadjaan brothers and their men who were allegedly planning to kidnap businessmen in mainland Mindanao.