From the Gulf Today (May 10): ‘8 terrorists seek sanctuary in Philippines’
At least eight foreign terrorists have sought refuge in the Philippines and are being “coddled” by terror groups like the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf that has gained notoriety for the kidnapping and beheading of their foreign and Filipino hostages, according to a senior military intelligence officer.
Major General Felimon Santos, the military’s chief intelligence officer, however, did not identify the terrorists and only said they were from the Philippines’ neighbouring countries particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Santos appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense and Security amid reports on the presence of foreign terrorists linked to extremists like the Abu Sayyaf as well as the Maute Group and the secessionist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that have pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East.
Santos also disclosed that Malaysian authorities have confirmed that the terrorists have been using the island state of Sabah to enter the Philippines.
In a separate but related development, Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, the head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, expressed optimism they could beat the deadline set by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to beat the Abu Sayyaf by June 30.
Galvez cited one major factor for his optimism, which is the unabated “search and destroy” operation launched by the military against the Abu Sayyaf, with attack helicopters aiding the ground forces in the campaign.
Another significant factor, Galvez disclosed, was the reported plan of top Abu Sayyaf leaders particularly the Radullah Sahiron to surrender mainly due to his age as well as the unabated military campaign against them on the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
“We see that the will of the enemy is now beginning to crumble. We have reached the tipping point of the Abu Sayyaf. No matter what they do they cannot recover,” Galvez stressed.
He disclosed that since January, at least 60 militants were killed, 13 arrested and 41 surrendered in the all-out military operations.
Other security officials also revealed that Abu Sayyaf members who have already surrendered have started cooperating with the military in identifying their former comrades and their areas of operation.