ASG SURRENDERERS. Five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) receive a sack of rice each as initial assistance from the government after their surrender on Sunday (June 5, 2022) in Patikul, Sulu. The Army's 45th Infantry Battalion facilitated the surrender of the ASG fighters, in collaboration with community stakeholders. (Photo courtesy of 45IB)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Five Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members have abandoned their armed struggle and surrendered to authorities in Sulu, a top military official said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the group surrendered Sunday in the Sulu town of Patikul to the Army's 45th Infantry Battalion (45IB).

“This feat is a result of the collaborative efforts of the 45IB together with the municipal police station and the local government of Patikul,” Rosario said.

Rosario said one of the five surrenderers, Benajir, 24, was a follower of ASG bomb-making experts Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Mudsrimar Sawadjaan.

Hatib was the mastermind of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral bombing on January 27, 2019 in Jolo, Sulu, that killed 20 people and injured 102 others, authorities said.

Mudsrimar, the cousin of Hatib, was allegedly behind the August 24, 2020 bombing, also in Jolo, which killed 14 people and injured 75 others.

On July 6, 2020, Hatib was seriously injured in a clash with government troops in Barangay Bakong, Patikul, and died from his injuries a few days later.

Like Benajir, the other four ASG surrenderers were also identified only through their first names as Monib, 24, Abdurahsi, 48; Rudy, 36, and Sattari.

Each of the surrenderer received immediate food assistance from the government.

During their surrender, they also turned over four high-powered firearms and were presented to Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, the Joint Task Force (JTF)-Sulu commander, at the 45IB headquarters in Barangay Tugas, Patikul.

Rosario said the influx of surrenders of ASG bandits can be attributed to “good governance and the unwavering support for peace of the Sulu people.”

For the first semester of the year, 44 ASG bandits have surrendered to military units under the JTF Sulu. (PNA)