(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AA
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: Three IS-linked militants have surrendered to government troops in the southern province of Sulu, where over a dozen hostages remain in captivity.
The surrender of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists was announced late Tuesday by Army Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.
Sobejana said the bandits gave up to troops of the Philippine Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion in Bonbon village in Patikul town. They also laid down their high-powered firearms.
The militants, who hail from the village of Liang, also in Patikul, are followers of the late Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Ninok Sappari, who was head of the "Lucky 9 group in Sulu.
Sappari's group assassinated military personnel and kidnapped both locals and foreigners in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Sappari had been wanted for 32 counts of murder.
"The surrendered Abu Sayyaf members are currently undergoing a custodial debriefing facilitated by our intelligence operatives," said Sobejana.
Army Lt. General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, welcomed the surrender of the terrorists, saying they will prepare them for reintegration into mainstream society.
Galvez, however, said the military offensives will continue despite the mounting number of terrorists who are now deciding to lay down their arms.
"Efforts are ongoing to rescue the hostages and contain the bandits in the province," he added.
More than a dozen hostages including Vietnamese, Malaysian nationals, a Dutchman and Filipinos are believed to be held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group in remote jungles of Sulu.
WestMinCom records show that from Jan. 1, 2017 to date, 117 Abu Sayyaf terrorists have surrendered with their firearms.
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