PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies to continue operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) until it is wiped out.
The President on Monday said the government has “sufficient forces” to do the job.
“My instruction to those concerned is to continue their operations without let-up until they [ASG] are all crushed, meaning arrested and brought to court, all members of the Abu Sayyaf,” Aquino said in an interview.
He was reacting to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman’s recommendation for an all-out military offensive against the ASG fafter the killing of six soldiers in an ambush staged by the group in Basilan province over the weekend.
“Just picture this imagery, you confined them in one camp because of your relentless pursuit until they all get tired of running and get caught,” Aquino said.
He added that the AFP and the Philippine National Police leaderships had assured him that their forces are sufficient to “wipe out these criminal elements.”
The President said there are only about 200 ASG members and the group has at least 200 sympathizers.
“So you’re talking about 400,” he noted.
According to him, military operations include “depriving” the ASG of its “safe havens” by sending out a number of battalions of troops in areas where the ASG is known to keep bases.
“We have several battalions, it’s not one or two, or three, several battalions composed of some of our most elite forces and the regular line infantry battalions who are going to all of these mountain lairs and very heavily wooded jungle and dense areas to precisely deprive them of [their] safe havens,” Aquino noted.
He said pursuit operations against the group were intensified after it released two German hostages recently.
Hataman on Monday inspected the area where the soldiers were ambushed.
“It was devastating, the soldiers had almost nowhere to run,” the governor said, noting the ASG managed to surround the troops. He said the ASG may have found a pattern in the soldiers’ patrol route.
The soldiers were guarding a road project in Sitio Mompol, Barangay Libug, when they were waylaid by around 20 bandits led by a certain Radzmi Jannatul.
“We highly condemn this cowardly act of [the] ASG. This road project is meant to address hardships of the people here who feel they are neglected,” Hataman said.
The Basilan circumferential road is a multimillion-peso project that runs 80 kilometers. Around 2.5 kilometers are unfinished.
The road, whose construction began in 2011, connects nearly half of the province’s main highways.