Aquino vows wipeout of Abu Sayyaf

MANILA, Philippines – The military will continue to pursue the Abu Sayyaf until they are wiped out.

This was the assurance given by President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, November 3, adding the government has “sufficient forces” to challenge the militants.

“We have been assured by the military and the police that we have sufficient forces to terminate these ill-intentioned groups,” Aquino said.

“The minimum we can expect is we won’t be having a daily press release, keeping score or with a running total. But our instructions is that there will be no let-up in our operations until we finish them – that is arrest and bring to court all members of the Abu Sayyaf.”

The President also acknowledged that as the military attacks get more aggressive, the Abu Sayyaf will respond with the same intensity. Aquino said this will not discourage the military.

“We have several battalions. By several I don’t mean one or two, or three – several battalions composed of some of our most elite forces and the regular line infantry battalions who are going to all of these mountain lairs and very heavily wooded jungle and dense areas to precisely deprive them of safe havens,” Aquino said.

Aquino's statements came after 6 soldiers, including a junior officer, were killed in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sumisip, Basilan on Sunday morning, November 2. The incident, in turn, came a day after the military launched air strikes against members of the local bandit group in adjacent island Sulu. (READ: Basilan's hero: Fresh PMA grad dies in Abu Sayyaf hands)

The troops started hunting the Abu Sayyaf on October 18, a day after the release of two German hostages, to rescue at least 10 remaining hostages. They have yet to find where the rebels are hiding. (READ: Abu Sayyaf frees 2 German hostages)

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.

Long-term goals

Aquino said his government has had regular meetings on how to deal with the Abu Sayyaf and that the administration is seeking short term and long term results.

He said the group’s members don’t want infrastructure to succeed in these areas which would bring about development and investment, because it would represent new hope and the rebels would lose possible recruits

The long term, he said, includes developing the southern region and regaining the group’s sympathizers.

“For the long term… there are many communities, relatives that are supportive of them. We need to recover these communities and convince them to stop supporting the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

“There’s also a need for widespread development not just in Sulu or Basilan. Actually our soldiers keeping watch there are also guarding the circumferential road that has taken so long to finish.” -