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SULU, Philippines – Philippine military chief Gregorio Catapang and Western Mindanao Command Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero gathered their forces to confront the Abu Sayyaf and its threat to kill one of their German hostages.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
Sulu, the troubled island in the southern Philippines is back in international headlines.
Local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf uses its 2 German hostages to ride on the ISIS ideology sweeping the Middle East and attracting followers all over the world. The Abu Sayyaf is asking for P250-million in ransom, that and a commitment from Germany to withdraw its support from the US-led war against the ISIS.
The Philippine military chief arrives in Jolo, Sulu five days before the Abu Sayyaf’s deadline. If their demands are not met by Friday, they say they will kill one of the hostages. The mission is clear: hunt down the terrorists and secure their release.
It is General Catapang’s first trip to Sulu since he became Philippine military chief. He says trust him and his classmate, Western Mindanao Command Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero.
GEN. GREGORIO CATAPANG, AFP CHIEF: Pinagsananib na namin ang aming lakas ni General Guerrero. All support ako sa kanya sa lahat ng mga ginagawa nya dito kaya tandaan nyo, Catapang na guerrero pa ano. So medyo malakas lakas na yan ano, Catapang na Guerrero pa. (General Guerrero and I have gathered our forces together. I give him my full support so remember, Catapang and Guerrero are working on this with combined strength.)
The military moved battalions from Luzon to increase troops presence in Sulu. He even brought in K-9 tracker dogs to help.
GEN. GREGORIO CATAPANG, AFP CHIEF: Basta pag in-order-an kaming i-rescue, we will conduct a rescue. (When we are ordered to rescue, we will conduct a rescue)
The Philippines has its own history of extremism in Mindanao. It is no surprise that the ISIS ideology is attracting followers here and other parts of the county. But the military maintains there are no operational links between ISIS and the Philippines. What the Abu Sayyaf is doing is get international attention.
The Abu Sayyaf may pay lip service to the jihadist movement, but the government sees it as a kidnap-for-ransom group.
Repeat photo of German hostages Analysts say the Abu Sayyaf is only interested in the ransom.
Like others before him, Catapang dreams of ending the Abu Sayyaf threat and bringing peace to Sulu.
He and his classmate have a lot of work to do.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler. Sulu – Rappler.com