Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who is wanted by the US government, was wounded in the raid by the military in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, on Monday, an Army official said Tuesday.
Hapilon was grazed by a bullet on the head as reported by military snipers, Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, said in a phone interview.
A nephew of Hapilon also suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder while at least four other Abu Sayyaf members were injured, Galvez said.
Hapilon and the other wounded, however, escaped during the raid which targeted him and Furuji Indama, another high-ranking Abu Sayyaf commander.
“Apparently naka[takas] po sila (Hapilon and Indama), pero si Isnilon nagkaroon ng slight wound sa head,” Galvez said.
Eight Abu Sayyaf gunmen were seen as getting killed in the firefight, but troops recovered only two bodies, he said.
A report reaching the military headquarters in Manila said the two bodies found at the clash site belonged to an alias “Abu Digod” and a certain Buga Teddy.
Three soldiers, identified as Sgt. Magno of the Army, A2C Kasilag of the Air Force, and SN1 Merquit of the Navy, were wounded in the firefight, according to the report.
Galvez said the raid in Brgy. Silangkum was launched purposely to find Hapilon and Indama because their groups have been “pestering” Basilan residents with kidnappings and extortion.
“Walang let up po ito. Walang let up po itong operations na ito until the Tipo-Tipo and Al Barka areas have been cleared of the Abu Sayyaf. Nagfo-focused military operations kami ngayon,” he said.
According to the official, Hapilon and Indama’s latest exploits include extorting “protection money” from the contractor of the Basilan Circumferential Road.
“Ine-extort nila ng P1 million ‘yung contractor, P2 billion kasi ang contract nun… parang protection money ang hinihingi,” he said.
The contractor has so far finished 12 kilometers of the 121-kilometer road that would run around the entire island-province, according to the official.
Hapilon first gained notoriety for his involvement in the May 2001 incident at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan where 20 people, including three Americans, were kidnapped.
Guillermo Sobero, one of the three American kidnap victims, was beheaded a month after the abduction.
American missionary Martin Burnham, the other kidnap victim, was killed in the crossfire between the Abu Sayyaf and soldiers who conducted a rescue operation in October 2001. His wife Gracia was injured but rescued.
The Dos Palmas kidnappings prompted the US government to offer up to $5 million, or more than P206 million, for Hapilon’s capture or killing.
Indama, though not included in the US list of Filipino terror suspects, is an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander blamed for several bombing and kidnapping incidents, as well as the 2007 beheading of 10 Marine troopers in Basilan.
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