In all the ongoing action in the martial law operations in Mindanao to stop the ISIS-linked Maute Group, we hope the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not forget its earlier campaign against another Mindanao armed group – the Abu Sayyaf.
At the beginning of this year, President Duterte gave the AFP six months to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf. That deadline ends June 30, 2017.
The deadline was given after the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped German yacht owner Jurgen Kantner while he was sailing with his wife in the waters around Sulu in November last year. They killed his wife and left her body in the yacht, then held him hostage for months. They then set a deadline for payment of ransom and when the deadline passed on Feb. 26, Kantner was beheaded.
He became the latest of several hostages killed by the Abu Sayyaf in the last few years, among them two Canadians kidnapped in the Davao Gulf in 2015. The Abu Sayyaf are said to be still holding over 20 other hostages of various nationalities.
Last month, AFP Western Mindanao Command chief, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. , said government troops have had now killed 81 Abu Sayyaf men in Sulu since January. He cited support from local officials, as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front. “With both lethal and non-lethal approaches,” he said, “it will be just a matter of time that we will defeat the entire group.”
Since that optimistic situation report last April, however, the Armed Forces have been mobilized for a Mindanao-wide martial law operation after the Maute Group, supported by Islamic State gunmen from other countries, raided Marawi City last May 23. The martial law operation has obviously seized the primary attention of the Armed Forces but we see that they have the situation well in hand.
With only 22 days left before the deadline given them by President Duterte, they could now perhaps consolidate their efforts for a final all-out final drive to eliminate an outlaw group which has challenged the government’s authority for too long, causing so much national embarrassment with its beheading of its foreign hostages.
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