Military launches air strikes vs Abu Sayyaf
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After two weeks of scouring the jungles of Sulu, the Philippine military finally caught up with the Abu Sayyaf Group and launched air strikes against the bandits twice on Saturday, November 1. (READ: Pressure on military to show results in hunt vs Abu Sayyaf)
Attack choppers MD 520-MG at 6:30 am on Saturday dropped bombs on an Abu Sayyaf encampment at Sitio Sangay, Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul town. This is where about 150 members of the bandit group converged on Friday, October 31, and slaughtered a cow in what appears to be a celebration, according to Task Force Group Sulu commander Colonel Alan Arrojado.
The second air strike was launched in the afternoon to provide close air support to Marines exchanging gunfire with the bandits.
Air strikes allow the military to hit the enemy with "a degree of certainty," said Arrojado, compared with artillery and mortar fires. "They're scared of attack helis," he said.
About an hour after the morning air strike, a 5-minute firefight ensued between the troops of the 35th Infantry Battalion (IB) and an Abu Sayyaf sub group led by Hati Hadjan Sawadjaan in nearby Barangay Bungkaong of the same town.
Lieutenant Colonel Marces Gayat, commanding officer of the 35th IB, said his reconnaissance platoon was scouring the forested area in Bungkaong when they spotted the armed bandits Saturday morning. "We traded fire with them but they scampered away to different directions. There were blood stains along their route of withdrawal," said Gayat. They reportedly withdrew towards Mt Sinumaan.
"We will not give these bandits time to rest. Our troops will continuously pursue them in their forest lairs," said Arrojado. Up to 3,000 troops were deployed to Sulu to crush the Abu Sayyaf.
Later in the afternoon, the Marines also encountered another group of 60 bandits led by Jamere Jawhari in Bud Langgal. No casualties were reported on both sides, according to military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc.
The military has been under pressure to show results in their hunt for the bandit group. President Benigno Aquino III said last week significant gains in military operations against the local terrorist gang Abu Sayyaf Group can be expected. (READ: Aquino: Expect suppression of Abu Sayyaf in 'following days')
The Abu Sayyaf has focused on kidnap-for-ransom activities in recent years, but it has also become notorious for terrorist acts like bombing and beheading of troops and hostages. Even Sulu residents have not been spared.
The group was back in international headlines after it threatened to behead German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen and sought to link up with the international group Islamic State or ISIS. The German hostages were released last October after ransom was reportedly paid.
Law enforcement operations were launched a day after the release to rescue at least 10 remaining Abu Sayyaf hostages. – Rappler.com