Army officer killed, 4 other wounded in Sayyaf clash in Basilan province
BASILAN – An army officer was killed and at least 4 soldiers were wounded in fierce clashes with Abu Sayyaf rebels on Thursday in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, the military said.
It said the fighting erupted in the village called Cabcaban in Sumisip town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. The clash broke out after rebels attacked a group of soldiers sent to track down the Abu Sayyaf.
There was no report of Abu Sayyaf casualties in the fighting, but the military said troops were pursuing the group of Puruji Indama, a notorious rebel leader tagged by authorities as behind the spate of deadly attacks and ransom kidnappings in the region.
The casualties are mostly members of the Special Forces.
President Rodrigo Duterte has – for the second time – ordered military forces to finish off the Abu Sayyaf and other jihadist groups tied to the Islamic State after failing to bring them to the negotiating table.
Thousands of army troops were deployed in Mindanao to fight the Abu Sayyaf and other allied groups. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has set a deadline to destroy the rebels – 6 months.
Military chief Eduardo Año, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, said at least 4 dozen army battalions, have been tapped to carry out Duterte’s order, who was perceived by some as soft on rebels, but hard on drug users.
“Not in our history there has been that massive deployment of our troops,” Año said in a television interview, adding, the goal of the new government offensive is to wipe out these Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups.
Año said 51 battalions were deployed in the restive region. “We are going to make sure that our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf will be quick,” he said.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ansarul Khilafah, Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, Al-Khobar Group, including so-called rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, among others, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an effort to establish a caliphate in Mindanao. These groups operate in the troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)