JOLO, Sulu (PNA) — The chief of Joint Task Force Sulu in this island province is confident that they can meet President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf in six months.
“We are confident we can even finish the job in less than six months,” Col. Cirlito Sobejana said in an interview here at Camp Gen. Teodulfo Bautista.
His statement came as the total fatalities of the Abu Sayyaf bandits have reached 30 as of Tuesday, March 7.
Sobejana said they received fresh information that two more Abu Sayyaf bandits have been killed in last Sunday’s operations in the boundaries of Talipao and Maibung towns.
He said at least two sub-leaders have been reportedly killed, namely Idang Susukan and his brother Jaber Susukan.
“This is a relentless and sustain military operation. The Abu Sayyaf is on the run. They are disorganized and confused,” he said.
In January, President Duterte ordered the military to exterminate the Abu Sayyaf by June 30 this year.
The military also overran the main camp of the Abu Sayyaf in Sinumaan complex that straddles the municipalities of Talipao and Maimbung, Sobejana said.
There are at least 14 battalions assigned in this province. On top of that, the military also deployed six Naval gun boats around this island province.
Sobejana said President Duterte gave them all the necessary resources to fight the Abu Sayyaf.
If needed, he said, they will utilize the latest FA-50 light combat aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to destroy the bandits’ hideouts.
Sobejana credited the success so far of their operations to the support given by the members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), local government units and community leaders.
“MNLF forces helped us in the information,” he said.
He said the MNLF also helped the military in the recovery of the remains of Juergen Gustav Kanter, who was executed by the Abu Sayyaf on February 26. The body was recovered on Saturday, March 4.
The body is expected to be flown to Manila on Tuesday, March 7.
There are at least 31 kidnapped victims being held by the Abu Sayyaf. Majority of them are foreigners.
The Abu Sayyaf has emerged in early 1990s in the island province of Basilan and spread in the neighboring island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Although almost all the senior leaders have been killed in years, the Abu Sayyaf has managed to recruit new members. Currently, the military put the number of Abu Sayyaf members at 400.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has been engaging in kidnap-for-ransom activities, has recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.