SOLDIERS on Monday captured a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf fortified with bunkers, tunnels and foxholes on Hill 355 in Barangay Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan, Major Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said Tuesday.
He said the terrorists abandoned their stronghold following an attack by the military.
Tan made his statement even as MILF Chairman Al Hajj Ebrahim Murad said a peace deal between the government and the rebel Moro groups, including the MILF and the MNLF, will help thwart the increasing influence of the Islamist group ISIS in Mindanao.
“If this process does not prosper, it will be difficult to hold back young people [from joining ISIS-inspired groups],” Murad said in a television interview.
Before capturing the stronghold in Silangkum, soldiers on Sunday seized control of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Barangay Baguindan Proper and at Hill 440.
“The terrain served to secure Abu Sayyaf’s vital mobility and to intimidate nearby communities,” Tan said.
In Salingkum, troops from the 4th Special Forces Battalion seized improvised explosive devices.
“The seized camp has 10 bunkers that can be occupied by more or less seven people, four tunnels that can be occupied by 20 people, several foxholes that can be occupied by eight people, a kitchen hut and one exit post,” Tan said.
In Baguindan, the military assault forced the Abu Sayyaf to abandon their stronghold that is fortified with seven foxholes and 12 bunkers capable of accommodating at least 80 rebels.
Lt. Col. Andrew Bacala Jr., commander of the 4TH Special Forces Battalion, said the capture of the Abu Sayyaf strongholds had weakened the terrorists, capability in Baguindan and in Al-Barka town.