Monday, May 8, 2017

Troops kill 60 Abu Sayyaf bandits since January -- Westmincom chief

From the Philippine News Agency (May 8): Troops kill 60 Abu Sayyaf bandits since January -- Westmincom chief

Sixty members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have been killed in Mindanao since January, which a top military commander attributed to sustained military offensives against the bandits.

“It is a matter of time (before we can crush the ASG). We believed we have gained a significant [step against the terrorist group]. Our objective in the six-month period given by the President (Rodrigo Duterte is doable). We have reached the tipping point of the ASG. Meaning, they could "no longer carry out" significant attacks,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom)

“We still have two months, and we are very confident we can beat the objective to decrease the capability of the enemies,” Galvez added.

Galvez updated journalists here Monday on the campaign of the military against threat groups under Westmincom’s jurisdiction, which includes provinces in mainland Mindanao and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Based on its report, at least 60 ASG members have been killed since the start of the year. Two of the latest firefights separately took place on Saturday, May 6, that resulted to the death of four bandits.

The big blow, Galvez said, is the killing of notorious ASG sub-leader Alhabshy Misaya.

Misaya was killed in a clash on April 29 in the town of Indanan, Sulu.

Misaya, a known explosive expert, was involved in a string of kidnapping and bombing cases, including the 2002 Malagutay bombing that killed an American soldier.

The military also apprehended 13 ASG members, while 41 surrendered, Galvez said.

Galvez said they expect more ASG members in Sulu to surrender, including the ageing and most senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Radullan Sahiron.

Sahiron, also known as the one-armed bandit, has earlier sent surrender feelers to the military.

“If we can get at least two or three more leaders of the ASG, [the organization] will crumble,” Galvez said.

Galvez attributed their successful operations to the information provided by ASG members who surrendered and from the community leaders.

Galvez said they expect the release of hostages as the area of the ASG "is now constricted."

The military, he said, is also gaining ground against the Maute group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in mainland Mindanao, particularly in the Lanao area.

The Joint Task Force ZamPeLan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao) had launched seven major operations that led to the killings of at least 36 members of the Maute group, including two foreign terrorists, galvez said,

For the campaign against the BIFF, the troops also killed 32 bandits in nine-recorded encounters, he said.

The military also recorded five encounters with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), the armed-wing of the Communist gParty of the Philippines, mostly in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The skirmishes led to the killings of two NPA members while two others were apprehended, he said.

Galvez said all these operations resulted to the recovery of 174 firearms, including five crew-served weapons.

The troops also recovered 38 improvised explosive devices, he added.

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