By Jaime Laude
Publish in Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines - Marines and police scouring Sulu for the Abu Sayyaf stumbled yesterday on a marijuana plantation on the outskirts of Maimbung town.
Col. Allan Arrojado, Sulu Joint Task Group commander, said the marijuana plants were uprooted and turned over to the Maimbung police for proper disposal.
The plantation was discovered at Sitio Kabugan, Barangay Patao at about 6 a.m., he added.
Arrojado said the military is investigating whether the Abu Sayyaf was behind the illegal operation.
“The operations yielded around 130 grown marijuana plants with an estimated value of half a million pesos,” he said.
Two brigades of soldiers, along with elite military units, are in Sulu to end the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping activities.
Since the start of the law enforcement operation “Chicken Run,” troops have recovered 15 harboring areas of the Abu Sayyaf – four in the vicinity of Mt. Sinumaan, five in Barangay Kabotakas, one in Barangay Buhanginan, two in Barangay Danag, and one at Barangay Maligay, all in Patikul.
Hundreds flee fighting
Hundreds of families have fled their homes in the hinterlands of Sumisip town to avoid being caught in the crossfire between advancing government troops and the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.
Sumisip Mayor Gulam Hataman said about 500 families, mostly from the hinterlands, have evacuated from at least four barangays adjacent to the jungle where Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama’s lair in Tipo-Tipo town is located.
“I have advised my villagers from the far-flung areas to descend to the lowlands for the meantime while there is an ongoing effort to run after the lawless elements,” he said.
Hataman said evacuees were coming from barangays Libo-Kandis, Manggal, Guiong and Benembengan, all adjacent to the border of Tipo-Tipo town.
He had asked residents to move out after the military informed him that an offensive would be undertaken, he added.
On midnight Monday, the military launched an offensive to dislodge the Abu Sayyaf from the camp, which is being used for training and bomb-making.
Troops are advancing cautiously as the path leading to the Abu Sayyaf camp could be rigged with booby traps, Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) deputy chief, said.