The surrender of a senior Abu Sayyaf leader could herald the collapse of the terror group on Basilan, the country’s defence chief has announced.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed this hope today (Thursday, March 29) after Nhurhassan Jamiri and his entire group ran up the white flag.
In a statement, Lorenzana said he was also hopeful that Jamiri’s surrender would restore peace and order in the province and help bring justice for the soldiers who have fallen battling the group.
The jihadi leader and 13 of his companions surrendered to Western Mindanao Command head Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez and soldiers of Joint Task Force Basilan at about 9am yesterday.
The Islamic State-linked terrorists also handed over 10 high-powered firearms, 40 ammunition magazines, 651 pieces of ammunition, a MK-52 fragmentation grenade and eight bandoleers. The high-powered firearms consisted of seven M-16 rifles, an M-4 carbine, an M-653 rifle and an M-14 rifle.
Joint Task Force Basilan commander Brigadier General Juvymax Uy, the commander of Joint Task Force Basilan, said: “From the rendezvous area, all the troops along with the surrendered fighters exfiltrated towards the headquarters of the 9th Scout Ranger Company and the 104 Brigade in Tabiawan, Isabela City.
“The surrenderers are currently undergoing custodial debriefing.
“This surrender only proves that with the president’s strategic guidance, our relentless offensives on the ground and our diplomatic approach are effective in defeating the Abu Sayyaf bandits and in addressing the internal aggression in ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) area.
“Following Jamiri’s surrender, we expect the other top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf to do the same in the upcoming days.”
Jamiri’s group gained notoriety for carrying out the 2002 Fort Pilar Bombing in Zamboanga City, the 2007 ambush of Marines in Albarka, which left 24 dead, the death of 19 Special Forces students in Cambug, Albarka, and the 2001 Lamitan Siege.
Its members also perpetrated several IED attacks in the cities of Isabela, Lamitan, Zamboanga, as well as kidnapping-for-ransom and extortion activities on Basilan.
His surrender brings this year’s total to 216, of whom 100 were from Basilan.
During a visit to Sulu Island on Monday, President Duterte emphasised that he would give surrendered Abu Sayyaf members the chance of a new life.
Addressing a crowd of former jihadis, he said: “I don’t abhor you [Abu Sayyaf members] because I understand the situation. As the president, I want to help you, but first, help me bring peace for the Moros in Mindanao. I am the only president that has a heart for the Muslims. All those who want to surrender are welcome but those who want to fight, know that the government is ready.”