By Francis Wakefield
An Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) member was killed during a pursuit operation conducted by troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu in Patikul, Sulu yesterday.
Abu Sayyaf (Manila Bulletin File Photo)
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey C. Pabayo, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the encounters started at exactly 3:20 p.m. at Sitio Sailih, Barangay Panglayahanat, when elements of the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo engaged a group of around 40 Abu Sayyaf terrorists led by a certain Hajaan Sawadjaan.
Exchange of fires lasted for 35 minutes with no reported casualty among the government forces.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and personal belongings of the bandits were also recovered at the encounter site.
“We are thankful for the information given by the local populace every time the bandits come to the area. This only shows that the people are fed up with the menace brought by the ASG and because they want to move forward toward peace and development in their locality," Pabayo said.
Lt. Gen. Arnel B Dela Vega, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom), said their intensified security operation against the ASG is meant to finish off the bandits so that people in the area can live in peace.
"Aside from protecting the people, we also have to secure ongoing government flagship projects there that are meant to deliver services to the communities," Dela Vega said.
“The ASG has brought so much destruction in Southern Mindanao so we really have to join hands in defeating them. Of course, they can yield to the government and opt to live peacefully with their family," he added.
Dela Vega said that for this year alone, almost a hundred ASG members have rejoined their families after yielding to the Armed Forces in coordination with the local government units in various municipalities of Sulu and Basilan alone.
Immediate assistance was extended to them while sustainable livelihood package is being formulated to finally help them become productive members of their respective communities.