By Nonoy Lacson
ZAMBOANGA CITY – An estimated 5,000 residents coming from five villages of Hadji Mohammad Ajul town in Basilan province have fled their homes since Tuesday, as the military stepped up operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
The intensified operations came after a deadly car bomb hit a military detachment in Lamitan City last July 31 that killed 11 and wounded five persons.
Hadji Mohammad Ajul Mayor Talib G. Pawaki reported yesterday that residents – most of them belonging to the Yakan tribe – of Barangays Tuburan proper, Languyan, Candiis, Langgong, and Buton fled their homes since Tuesday to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
The five villages have been virtually transformed into “ghost villages”, according to Pawaki.
Pawaki said the military stepped up operations against elements of the ASG which may be hiding in the forested areas in his town. These were the same suspects tagged in the Lamitan car bomb attack.
Lamitan City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay yesterday said some of those that fled their homes in Hadji Mohammad Ajul are now Lamitan, and are staying with their respective relatives.
He said most of those who are residents of Hadji Mohammad Ajul had relatives Lamitan, which just adjacent to the town.
“Or we can simply say that we are just neighbors here,” Furigay said.
But what was important, according to him, was that those who seek refuge in Lamitan “are peace loving people.
“(If that is the case), then we have nothing to worry if they come to stay with their relatives here,” he added.
Furigay said the military operations against the ASG were necessary in order for the community to experience peace and tranquility away from atrocity of the terror group.
Furigay called on his constituents to be calm and alert at all times, and to report to the police and military authorities any suspicious looking persons in their community to prevent any atrocity from happening in their community.