An aide of Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron was shot dead in Patikul, Sulu, not by government forces but by fellow members of the bandit group, the military reported.

Killed was one Nadzmil Ali, a “trusted” man of Sahiron, Armed Forces public affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc said Wednesday.

A Sulu-based military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ali, whose real name is Khalid Sali, was shot dead in Brgy. Buhanginan around 4 p.m. Monday.

Sali, an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander who served as Sahiron’s “right-hand man,” was bathing at a stream when he was shot, the official said.

Sali was shot with his own gun by a nephew, who fellow Abu Sayyaf sub-commanders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Furuji Indama had “agitated,” the source said.

“Pinaghihinalaan kasi nila Sawadjaan itong si Sali na informant ng military, na kung bakit tuwing magkakasama sila ay nae-engage sila ng tropa. Parang purging ang nangyari,” said the source.

A Manila-based military official monitoring developments in Sulu said Sali was a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who got integrated into the AFP.

Sali eventually earned the rank of captain in the military, but went AWOL sometime in 2008 then joined the Abu Sayyaf, the official said.

The Sulu-based official said security forces did not see Sali’s body as it was buried in Patikul on Tuesday.

“We are validating this report regarding the killing of Nadzmil Ali, and we are also verifying the report that he was indeed the former Army captain, Khalid Sali, who went AWOL seven years ago,” Cabunoc said.

‘Infighting’

Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said her office has also yet to receive an official report on Sali’s killing, but admitted hearing of the supposed dissention among Abu Sayyaf sub-commanders.

“Medyo may doubt na sila sa isa’t isa. Hinihintay ko pa ang official report diyan,” she said.

The Sulu-based official revealed that Sali’s killing prompted Sawadjaan and Indama to “split” from Sahiron’s group for fear of retaliation from the Abu Sayyaf top leader.

“Ngayon umalis na sila Sawadjaan, humiwalay kasama si Furuji, alam kasi nilang babawi si Radullan. Nasa Patikul pa rin sila pero ibang area na,” the official said.

“May infighting na sa kanila. Nag-move na sila Sawadjaan at Furuji na palitan si Sahiron, ang gusto nilang ipalit si Yasser Igasan,” the source added.

Sahiron, who is said to have taken over the helm of the Abu Sayyaf after Khadaffy Janjalani was killed in 2006, is included in the U.S.’ list of most wanted terrorists, with the State Department offering up to US$ 1 million for his capture.

Igasan is also a prominent Abu Sayyaf commander who, according to intelligence reports, should have succeeded Janjalani but was not acknowledged by Sahiron because he is more of a cleric and has relatively lower skills in combat. (John Roson)

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