Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Aquino visits Sulu amid Abu Sayyaf threat

From the Philippine Star (Jun 15): Aquino visits Sulu amid Abu Sayyaf threat  

President Benigno Aquino III flew straight from Manila to Sulu on Wednesday morning to assess military operations, two days after the radical Abu Sayyaf group beheaded its last Canadian captive against the militant group, security officials confirmed.

The president arrived about 10:50 a.m. and proceeded to Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Busbus, Jolo to meet with the military ground commanders.

The unscheduled visit was not announced to the media here and in Jolo for security reasons.

Aquino's visit came amid outrage over the beheading of Robert Hall, whose decapitated head was found in front of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in downtown of Jolo earlier this  week.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman of Western Mindanao Command, confirmed the visit but provided no details.

Col. Franco Alano, spokesman of the Joint Task Force Sulu, similarly confirmed the presence of the president and prepared to brief him on the security efforts against the Abu Sayyaf.
Alano, however, said no further details can be disclosed on the emergency visit of the outgoing president.

Aquino, who will be stepping down from presidency 15 days from now, had given earlier standing order for the military forces in Sulu to run after the Abu Sayyaf group and safely recover all the hostages.

At least seven remaining hostages are still held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu following beheading of Hall on Monday. The captives have been identified as Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall's Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor, Dutch Ewold Horn, and locals Joshua Bani, Araji Maani, Antonio Tan and Ronnie Bangcale.

Hall's fellow Canadian, John Ridsdel, was beheaded on April 25 after his family and the Canadian government refused to settle P300 million ransom.

Hall, Ridsdel, Sekkingstad and Flor were taken from Samal Island resort off Davao del Norte on Sept. 21, 2015 and brought to Sulu. Horn was abducted on Feb. 1, 2012 in Tawi-Tawi. The other local captives were separately abducted in Zamboanga peninsula.

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