The military on Thursday confirmed that 149 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members have been neutralized since January this year following the intensified operations launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, 81 bandits were killed, 50 surrendered and 18 apprehended by government troops.
“One of the biggest factors is our focus on combat operations, which is our main asset in the AFP including our personnel in air and sea. Our special massive operations unit also decreased their chances of kidnapping civilians,” Arevalo told reporters.
He attributed the success of their operations to the assistance given by local residents.
Arevalo said the military will continue pursuing members of the terror group.
“There is one battalion deployed in Western Mindanao, particularly in Sulu. We feel like we have sufficient forces in those parts,” he said.
“We have been proactive in our actions and if there are reports that will keep on coming here, we will still be proactive,” Arevalo added.
Members of the 10th Infantry Battalion under Joint Task Force Sulu engaged 15 Abu Sayyaf members in a five-minute gun battle in Patikul, Sulu, killing two of the bandits.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a statement that they recovered the remains of the two ASG bandits who are yet to be identified.
The latest skirmishes between the government forces and the bandits occurred on Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said that the joint task force based in Sulu aims to flush out the ASG bandits from their comfort zones and bring them to places “where they are vulnerable.”