AFP: 3 more Abu Sayyaf members killed in second clash with military in Clarin, Bohol

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Eduardo Ano said three more Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were killed in a second firefight against government forces in Clarin, Bohol.

The clash occurred at around 9 p.m. on April 22. Three high-powered firearms were also recovered, including M16 and M14 rifles.

 

The military says they are still running after three more ASG members, who are supposedly remnants of ASG leader Abu Rami's group who sailed to Bohol from Sulu early this month.

Armed Forces Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla had confirmed the death of ASG guide Joselito Melloria in an earlier firefight with government troops.

"It is indeed Joselito Melloria and he was killed when our troops met their group in Sitio Lagsing, Barangay Bacani, Clarin, Bohol sometime 1 o'clock today," he told CNN Philippines.

Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto said the first clash began around 12:45 p.m. and ended later that afrernoon.

"Our ground forces responded positively and immediately to information by civilians that were giving them tips on the whereabouts, then they were able to corner them," Chatto said. "I think they were using a cave as a temporary shelter in the area."

 

Chatto also learned that the bandits were losing their capability to fight.

"Considering that the information relayed by those who have met the strugglers and have also had interaction with them, they are getting weak and have lesser firearms left," he said.

Chatto disclosed that affected residents have been evacuated and the government is mobilizing teams to provide assistance.

"They are now at the Cultural Center of the town of Clarin and we have already mobilized the response teams of the municipality of Clarin and the provincial government response teams to provide support to the evacuees," he said. "Likewise, there is a hostel nearby, which is just beside the Cultural Center and we are increasing the hospital capability."

Bohol still safe

Despite the firefight, the governor said the rest of Bohol remains "very peaceful."

"We are just asking the people to be vigilant all the time and to report when there are suspicious persons in their respective communities," he said.

The Clarin clash is the second in the province in two weeks.

A joint statement released by the Central Command of the AFP and the Police Regional Office 7 yesterday said, "It could just be a matter of time before we can say the threat is totally eliminated. The remaining lawless armed elements who are strangers in the area have nowhere to go. Nevertheless, our combined troops will remain cautious in theur mission to neutralize what remains of the armed group from Sulu. The safety of our peace-loving people is of paramount consideration as we deliver the final blow to the stragglers."

On April 11, six  ASG members, including the group's leader Abu Rami, were killed in a firefight with government forces in the neighboring town of Inabanga.

Read: AFP to close in on remaining wounded ASG at large in Bohol

Following this clash, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Bohol is the safest province in the country, ahead of an Association of a Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trade officials' meeting in the province from April 19 to 21.

Read: Interior Secretary, military: Bohol 'well-fortified' for ASEAN meetings despite clash

"(Bohol) might as well be considered a well-fortified and most secure place in the country right now," said DILG officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy, who also chairs the security committee of the National Organizing Committee of the Summit and related ASEAN meetings.

Some 200 ASEAN trade officials attended the Regional Economic Partnership Trade Negotiating Committee meetings at the Hennan Resort in the popular tourist destination of Panglao island, which is 73 kilometers sourth of Inabanga.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.

CNN Philippines Correspodent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.

(Story updated on April 23 to include new information from AFP Chief Eduardo Ano and the joint AFP, PNP-PRO 7 statement.)