From InterAksyon (Feb 2): Eight battalions being ranged against 200 Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf
An almost division-size fighting force composed of five Army battalions, including elite forces from the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and three Marine battalions are mobilized to go after an estimated 200 fighters of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.
A battalion is composed of 450 to 500 soldiers, and a division is typically comprised of three brigades having three battalions each.
Meanwhile, a member of the 1st Special Forces Battalion (SFB) was killed when armed men ambushed a group of soldiers Tuesday in Barangay Anoling, Patikul, Sulu.
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the soldiers were in civilian attire conducting an intelligence operation when fired upon by the suspected terrorists.
Tan said the soldiers fought back, but one of them died during the firefight, and the outnumbered troopers were saved by a convoy of tank reinforcement.
As this developed, Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 had just been replaced by MBLT1 as the government forces continued battling the terrorists in the hinterlands of Talipao town.
"The officers and men of MBLT1 had just finished their retraining and were ready for deployment again in Sulu. They will replace MBLT2, which will also undergo retraining for months, maybe a year or so, before they are deployed again for combat missions," Arrojado said.
Navy spokesman Captain Lued Lincuna said MBLT1 is led by Colonel Noel Beleran. The command is deployed under the operational command of Arrojado.
Lincuna explained that the replacement and retraining of combat personnel is part of the military's development of doctrines, education and training, and operational requirements.
Earlier, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri directed the operational and ground commanders having jurisdiction in Sulu and Basilan to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf before President Benigno Aquino's term ends.
Iriberri is set to reach his mandatory retirement age of 56 in April and the talk going around is that he would not get an extension from Aquino.
"We'll try our best to accomplish our mission, we'll give it our best effort. There is nothing to do but carry it out," Arrojado said.
The military estimates there are also some 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters operating in Basilan.
According to the latest data of the military, 10 kidnap victims, including foreigners, remain in the hands of the terrorists.
Tan said Westmincom is set to "reorganize" its forces to better match operational requirements.
"The command is bent on quashing the Abu Sayyaf," Tan said.