Muslim leaders work on surrender of Abu Sayyaf fighters
Military confirms leading group member, Raddulan Sahiron, has sent out feelers about giving himself up
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (left), commander of the Philippine military's Western Mindanao Command, and Rear Admiral Rene Medina, chief of naval forces in the region, present to the media 11 Abu Sayyaf fighters who surrendered in the province of Tawi-Tawi on April 13. (Photo by Darwin Wally Wee)
Muslim religious leaders in the southern Philippines are working for the surrender of the notorious Abu Sayyaf terror group in Mindanao.
"There are initiatives and attempts to reach out to [leaders of the terror group]," Abdulmuhmin Alyakanie Mujahid, head of the Fatwa Council in Mindanao, told ucanews.com.
Mujahid made the revelation amid reports that a top Abu Sayyaf leader has sent surrender feelers to the Philippine military.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the military's Western Mindanao Command, said Raddulan Sahiron, who is on a U.S. list of most wanted terrorists in the Philippines, has made contact with authorities.
Sahiron, who is believed to be 74 years old, was indicted in a U.S. court in 2007 for his involvement in the kidnapping of an American. The U.S. government has offered a US$1 million reward for Sahiron's capture.
Galvez said Sahiron's condition for surrender is for the Philippine government not to turn him over to U.S. authorities.
Sahiron is considered to be Abu Sayyaf's "overall leader" after other senior leaders of the terror group died in clashes with government troops in recent years.
Galvez said they are currently employing a "non-lethal" approach to addressing terrorism in the southern part of the country.
Mujahid lauded the government move, saying that the military will never solve the problem only with the use of guns. "We should all work together," said the religious leader.
At least 11 Abu Sayyaf fighters in the province of Tawi-Tawi surrendered to the government during the Holy Week. A total of 16 fighters have already surrendered since January this year.
Mujahid said Muslim religious leaders have been talking with some Abu Sayyaf fighter to convince them that "what they are doing is against the teaching of Islam."
"Some of them apologized, but some threatened us," said Mujahid. "They said they would kill us if they saw us, but we just shrugged it off," he added.
He said a number of ulamas, or religious leaders, in Mindanao have received "death threats" for their efforts to counter the spread of radical Islam in the region.
Ben Saudi Sariol, a Abu Sayyaf fighter who surrendered last week with his father, admitted that intensified military operations pressured him to give up.
"We just want a peaceful life. We want to see our children going to school," he said in his native language. "We feel much safer now," he told ucanews.com.
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