DWINDLING GROUP. Two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members (holding rifles) surrender to government authorities Sunday (June 19, 2022) in Lamitan City, Basilan, as the bandit group continues to weaken after the death of its leader. The two were followers of Basilan-based ASG leader Furuji Indama, who was killed in a clash with government troops in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Two Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits turned themselves in as their faction continued to weaken after losing their leader, the military said Monday.

Maj. Andrew Linao, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said Mujahav Elong, 37, and Ahmad Wakil, 32, surrendered around 10 a.m. Sunday to the Army's 18th Infantry Battalion (18IB) in Lamitan City, Basilan.

“The surrender of the two former violent extremists is a result of the collaborative efforts of the 18IB and the peace-inclined Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Linao said in a statement.

Linao said the duo, both of Ungkaya Pukan town, also turned over two Garand rifles.

He said the surrenderers were followers of ASG leader Furuji Indama, who was killed in a clash with military forces sometime in 2020.

Indama took over the leadership when ASG leader and Islamic State for Iraq and Syria emir for Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon was killed in 2017 at the height of the Marawi siege.

“Since then, the terrorist group (in Basilan) gradually weakened which resulted in the capitulation of most of its members and supporters,” Linao said.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, said they continue to encourage ASG members who are still hiding in the hinterlands of Basilan to surrender and live peaceful lives.

“The AFP and the local government units will never cease to provide all necessary assistance during their reintegration into mainstream society,” Rosario said in a separate statement. (PNA)