Sunday, September 28, 2014

Troops deploy after Abus threaten German hostages

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 29): Troops deploy after Abus threaten German hostages

The military has dispatched an estimated 1,000-plus extra soldiers to Mindanao to strengthen security after Islamic militants threatened to kill one of two German hostages.

A military statement yesterday said an Army brigade, a unit that usually comprises between 800 and 1,500 troops, was flown to the remote Sulu island group, where the Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding the two German tourists.

Two other Army battalions were deployed in nearby southern areas, it added.

“This is a redeployment that is part of an ongoing plan which is anchored on our mandate to address internal and external security situations,” it said without elaborating.

The reinforcements will allow Philippine Marines who have been fighting the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu as well as in Basilan, another southern island, “to concentrate on
their main tasks,” Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division (ID) spokesman Maj. Calixto told Agence France Presse.

He declined to disclose the exact number of troops sent to Mindanao, citing operational security. One of the smaller units was flown to the South last Saturday, he added.

The statement said all three units that were sent to Mindanao had come from Nothern Luzon where security officials said a long-running communist insurgency has largely petered out.

Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon, commander of the military’s 5th ID, for his part, said the redeployment of the 501st Brigade was decided by higher headquarters as part of the efforts to attain “inclusive development.”

“Since Northern Luzon is no more a problematic area compared to Mindanao, we have to balance and help in maintaining peace in Mindanao so that we can have inclusive development and inclusive stability,” he added.

De Leon urged the troops to continue performing well as he cited their contributions to the internal peace and security operations in Northern Luzon.

“Today is the best time to be a soldier. In the fulfillment of duty, one is called to serve. Service to the nation becomes every soldier’s creed as he enters the military institution. It encompasses the various roles and challenges you will yet to face,” he said.

“As soldiers, it is a part and parcel of our job to be apart from our families. We pledge to put service to our nation before ourselves. It is our commitment until we retire,” he added.

The redeployment of additional troops to Mindanao came amid continuing reports of recruitment activities by ISIS which has occupied large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

No less than former President Fidel V. Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that ISIS has already recruited Filipino Muslims.

The AFP has consistently downplayed the information.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last Friday announced that, to “stop the Abu Sayyaf once and for all,” Army troops will be dispatched to Sulu to help the Marines there.

Gazmin has stressed the government would not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf over its demands for about $5.62 million in ransom for the Germans.

Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill one of two German hostages unless a ransom is paid and Berlin halts its support for the US-led campaign against the IS group.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose band of several hundred Islamic militants originally organized with Al-Qaeda funding in the 1990s.

The group has been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including kidnappings, abductions and beheadings of foreign and local hostages.

It is believed to be currently holding several other hostages, including two European birdwatchers abducted in February 2012.

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