AFP seeks MILF help in destroying Abu Sayyaf

Carmela Fonbuena
The military claims to have neutralized a total of 175 members of the terrorist group

STRONGER ALLIANCE. AFP public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala sees MILF help in destroying ASG

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking at a “stronger alliance” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to destroy the Abu Sayyaf Group. 

“The encounter that transpired between combined forces of AFP and the MILF against ASG could be an avenue to build a stronger alliance to destroy the ASG organization,” AFP public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala told reporters on Monday, July 15. 

Zagala was referring to an incident in Al-Barka, Basilan, in May, when the MILF came to the AFP’s rescue when they were ambushed by the ASG.

Al-Barka is a known territory of the MILF. The 32nd Infantry Battalion sought the MILF to help coordinate the pursuit operation. The military was in Al-Barka to assist the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) implement a project. 

In another incident also in May, the MILF offered to mobilize its forces in Sulu to help soldiers run after the ASG and hold them accountable for the death of 7 Marines.

READ: MILF joins hunts for Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

Peace talks between the government and the MILF is showing progress. The government hopes to complete the agreement within the year. 

READ: Bangsamoro talks: Last 2 annexes signed within the year

Screenshot of AFP presentation

ASG continues to engage in “guerilla operations” and “criminal activities for financial gains.” Zagala cited at least 4 major encounters with the ASG this year – 3 incidents in Basilan and 1 incident in Sulu. In an incident in Patikul, Sulu, in May, the AFP lost 7 soldiers.

A classified document obtained by Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa shows the Abu Sayyaf held up to 11 hostages as of January 2013. Australian Warren Rodwell has since been released, but foreign hostages remain with the ASG.

READ: The men Rodwell leaves behind with the Abu Sayyaf

Since the implementation of IPSP Bayanihan in 2011, AFP claimed it has “neutralized” a total of 175 ASG members. Another 26 members are facing cases in court and at least 25 bomb attacks were pre-empted. 

But the Abu Sayyaf continues to recruit new members. Zagala earlier said the Abu Sayyaf has been able to “exploit Jihadi ideology” to “recruit followers and gain adherents and sympathizers.”

Military intelligence put the ASG membership to 385 as of 2013. It’s a small difference from its supposed 381 membership in 2011 and 398 in 2012.

Most of its members are confined in Sulu and Basilan and to, a lesser extent, in Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi. – Rappler.com

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