In this file photo, Marines unload assorted ammunition and artillery rounds from a military C-130 plane. Philstar.com/John Unson, file
The military has redeployed 11 battalions to Sulu to go after the Abu Sayyaf and its leaders, the military Western Mindanao Command said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief, said troops aim to get ranking terrorist leaders by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
Among the targets are senior leaders Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Galvez said.
Sahiron, an aging one-armed militant leader, was earlier said to have sent feelers to arrange a surrender but the military found that it was a tactic to slow down operations.
Galvez said the operation to crush the Abu Sayyaf was almost completed last year but units had to be deployed to Marawi against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists that laid siege to the capital of Lanao del Sur from May to October.
“We have impending operations there in Sulu and the target is all the high-value targets must be neutralized by the first quarter,” Galvez said.
Galvez said addressing the security problem in Sulu is very important to allow government development programs to go on full swing.
He said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional government have been supportive of the development campaign and has funded P500 million in infrastructure projects.
Local government units and barangay leaders have already committed to leading the campaign to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf group, Galvez said.
He said local leaders had helped prompt the surrender of more than 140 Abu Sayyaf members since last year. Westmincom has also recorded 127 militants killed and 90 captured in the same period.