CEBU (Updated) -- Nine were killed in a gunfight between government troops and suspected members of Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf in Inabanga, Bohol, Tuesday morning, April 11.
A police officer and three soldiers died, while five terrorists were killed during the clash that started at 5:20 p.m. in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo.
Government troops claimed a “tactical victory” over the terrorist group.
“We were able to defeat, destroy the opponent. We are on top of the situation,” Colonel Medel Aguilar of Central Command (Centcom) said.
The Abu Sayyaf reportedly employed snipers, while the government struck back with an airstrike.
Seized from the Jihadist terror group were their three speed boats, three M16s and M14 rifles, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.
No civilian was killed or injured during the skirmish.
Authorities have yet to determine what the terrorists were doing in the town.
Aguilar said lawless elements can easily enter Bohol because the island has several entry points, but he added that what matters is that they were able to monitor them.
Last Sunday, the US Embassy issued a travel advisory, reminding its citizens to reconsider traveling to Central Visayas, which includes Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor, because of “unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings” in the region.
Aguilar, in a press conference, said they do not think the armed group went to Bohol to disrupt the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Panglao Island.
Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Noli Taliño and Centcom Commander Oscar Lactao, in a joint statement, said the slain troopers made the “supreme sacrifice.”
“Their heroism will be forever be engraved in the hearts of our people,” the statement read.
Taliño and Lactao flew to Inabanga to supervise troops and to provide moral support.
Aguilar confirmed that one of the casualties is a military official.
They have not released the names of slain government troops as they have yet to inform their families, Senior Inspector Reslyn Abella, PRO-Central Visayas information officer.
Government troops are still conducting “clearing operations” in Inabanga, making sure the armed men cannot flee to other villages and neighboring towns.
“We have to make the place secure. We want to eliminate the threat,” Aguilar said.
The official praised residents of Napo for informing the government about the presence of heavily armed men.
About 10 suspected terrorists, including Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Abu Rami, were seen on three motorized bancas in the river off Ylaya last Monday afternoon, April 10. Rami is reportedly the right-hand man of terror group leader Hatib Sawadjaan.
They occupied three houses in Napo.
Abella said they still have to verify the information that a resident of Napo is married to one of the suspected Abu Sayyaf members.
Some residents, who spotted the armed men, reported Tuesday morning their presence to the police.
“The civilians provided us with an accurate information that enable us to locate the group and be able to engage them. We have prevented whatever their plan is,” Aguilar said.
In an interview with ABS-CBN TV Patrol Central Visayas, Inabanga Mayor Josephine Jumamoy said some of her constituents saw the suspected Abu Sayyaf members just before they reached Napo.
Due to the incident, more than 500 residents in Napo and Barangays Sanlinte, Baguhan and Kawayan were evacuated to avoid being caught in a cross fight.
Jumamoy said that based on information they received, the bandits were visiting one of their cohorts who married a local.
She believes that the bandits were using Napo as a “gateway” to other towns, such as Sagbayan, Buenavista and Carmen.
Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, for his part, assured the public that Tuesday's incident was contained and had no sign of reaching other areas.
Chatto said business in Inabanga and in Bohol, in general, remains usual.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas delivered 150 food packs to affected families in Inabanga.
Kerwin Macopia, DSWD-Central Visayas information officer, said an additional 100 food packs will be delivered Wednesday morning. (SunStar Cebu)