By Francis T. Wakefield
The commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) expressed confidence that “60 to 70 percent” of its problem with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) will be solved once the bandit group’s senior leader Radullan Sahiron surrenders to government forces.
The assessment was made by Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana as he reacted to reports that Sahiron, who took over the Abu Sayyaf in 2006 following the death of Khadaffy Janjalani, was willing to turn himself in.
Sobejana said, considering that Sahiron was a respected leader, the military expects his followers to follow suit, and also surrender.
“He is very much respected by his followers, that’s why we expect them to also surrender. Most probably 60 to 70 percent of the problem will be solved if he indeed surrenders,” Sobejana.
“For a while there will be a leadership vacuum, there will be a power struggle among the sub-leaders on who will succeed as leader,” he added.
Sobejana said if Sahiron dies or turn himself in, ASG sub-leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Yasser Igasan will likely succeed him.
“Igasan or Sawadjaan are the most likely successors if he dies. For a while there will be a leadership vacuum, there will be a power struggle among the subleaders,” he said.
When asked if there was already a date on when Sahiron will likely surrender, Sobejana said there was none yet.
“There is still no date but he already signified his intention to surrender because he, as reported to us, is already weak, tired and weary because they are moving from one place to another,” Sobejana said.
“We are not stopping with our operations. We don’t get tired because we (always) rotate our forces,” he added.
Sobejana said no less than Sahiron’s close associate relayed the information that he already wanted to surrender.
“They are on the run, they are running short of logistics. They are outside their comfort zones. They no longer enjoy the support coming from the community,” he said.