Gov't forces pursuing at least 7 ASG members in Bohol

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 14) — The police and military in Bohol are pursuing at least seven men believed to be followers of slain Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Muammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami.

Government forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf members in Inabanga town Tuesday, which led to six killed in the firefight.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año earlier said they were after five members who had escaped.

However, an eyewitness — a construction worker whose identity won’t be disclosed for his safety — told authorities he was asked to help seven fleeing bandits on Wednesday.

The Bohol resident told CNN Philippines a certain Joselito Melloria, a local guide who supposedly facilitated the entry of Rami's group to Inabanga, asked for help.

The eyewitness claimed Melloria went to his house in the outskirts Wednesday morning and asked for food and shovel for the bandits.

A shallow grave was seen in the area where the bandit group buried one of its members, he said.

The military has questioned him as the probe on the deadly encounter continues.

READ: At least 10 killed in firefight in Bohol vs. suspected Abu Sayyaf: Police, military

In addition to the six slain ASG members who were killed in the firefight, three military troops and one policeman also died.

However, the eyewitness insisted that two of the fatalities on the bandits' side were an elderly couple residing in the barangay. The cause of their deaths remains unclear.

Authorities had scoured the area looking for clues on where the bandits could have fled. The ASG members are considered armed and dangerous for carrying high-caliber firearms and explosives.

Meanwhile, the Bohol government gave posthumous awards to three army soldiers, including a junior officer, who were killed in Tuesday's clash.

The body of Lieutenant Espelito Saldua Jr. was flown to his hometown in Batangas on Thursday.