Military closing in on Abu Sayyaf

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THE military has stepped up its operations to rescue two Germans being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

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On Monday, Armed Forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered the deployment of K-9 teams to Sulu to track down the Germans and other foreign captives of the rebel group.

“The chief of staff has directed different units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to compose K-9 tracking units in order to help locate the Abu Sayyaf bandits who are believed to be holding the German hostages,” military spokesman Lt. Harold Cabunoc said.

He explained that the intent is to put pressure on the rebels.

“We must be the one dictating the tempo,” Cabunoc said, citing as example a similar incident in 2000 when the Abu Sayyaf was forced to release 13 members of the Jesus Miracle Crusade without a firefight when the military deployed troops from the 59th Infantry Battalion and the Light Reaction Battalion, Scout Rangers and Special Forces.

He said the military will apply the same pressure on the ASG.

“The presence of tracking dogs will be a great help to the accurate movements of our troops so that they [Abu Sayyaf] would be contained in a smaller area,” according to Cabunoc.

He said while the military supports the government’s position not to negotiate with terrorists, they will work closely with the local Crisis Management Committee, the lead group facilitating whatever actions necessary to be carried out on the ground.

The dogs, he said, will come from the K-9 units of the Air Force, Army, Navy and other military units with such capability, adding that they would be deployed as soon as possible.

According to Cabunoc, the hostages were being kept in different places but they can be easily located through the help of K-9 tracking dogs.

“They are kept in different areas but I could not divulge the exact places. Our troops have identified some of their locations and we want to ensure that we are always accurate and that is why we will use the dogs as force multiplier,” the official said.

The military earlier repositioned an additional 1,200 Army troops to augment the existing Philippine Marines operating in Sulu, Zamboanga Peninsula and nearby island provinces after the abduction of the two Germans off the coast of Palawan.

Last month, suspected Abu Sayyaf members also kidnapped an 18-year old South Korean, Li Pei Zhel, in Kabansalan town in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

In April, they also abducted a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel receptionist at a holiday resort in Sabah.

The same group is behind the kidnapping of Australian Richard Warrane Rodwell in Barangay Pangi, Ipil, Zamboanga on December 4, 2011; birdwatchers Lorenzo Vinciguerra and Dutchman Ewold Horn in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi on February 1, 2012; Japanese Toshio Ito, who was abducted in Pangutaran, Sulu on July 16, 2010; and Indian Biju Koara Veettil in Patikul, Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf was also responsible for the April 23, 2000 kidnapping wherein 21 foreign tourists were taken hostage and brought to Jolo.

In 2001, the Abu Sayyaf also abducted 20 people at the Dos Palmas Resort in Honda Bay, Palawan, that resulted in the death of at least five hostages, including Americans Guillermo Sobero and Martin Burnham.

The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for beheading their victims whose families fail to come up with ransom.

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