THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff has ordered the 125,000-strong military to use all available war materiel to finish off the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
“Let us use all available tools of war in inflicting not just physical destruction but also in rendering a psychological blow against the ASG. Ensure their isolation from their local support system and make the communities resilient against the influence of terrorists,” Gen. Ricardo Visaya told military commanders during the 3rd Quarter Command Conference over the weekend at Tejeros Hall, Commissioned Officer’s Club at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
He gave the order even as he said the AFP has gained significant headways through focused military operations against the ASG in their known lairs in Basilan and Sulu provinces in southern Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered in July the” total decimation” of the terror group.
For the third quarter of the year, according to Visaya, AFP operations resulted in the neutralization of 130 ASG bandits, 102 of whom were killed, seven were apprehended and 21 surrendered.
The figure included the death of key terrorists Mohammad Said, Jamiri Jawhari, Musanna Jamiri and Nelson and Braun Muktadil.
The military also recovered and confiscated 165 fast boats that are being used as means of transportation by the ASG.
This feat reduced the group’s mobility and ability to cross borders around the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi (Zambasulta) provinces.
The AFP chief said he also wants to take advantage of a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that empowers the military to enforce regulations on the use of high-speed watercraft, confiscate unregistered sea craft and dismantle illegally constructed piers and wharves.
“This must be enforced not only in the Zambasulta area but throughout the country to significantly reduce enemy capabilities, further constrain their movement and deny staging areas for their atrocities,” Visaya added.
“We need to hit the ASG harder. Our goal is the total defeat of the ASG and the destruction of its cells the soonest possible time,” he said.
In an earlier presentation to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the military chief reported that at least 579 massive military operations have been conducted against the ASG that resulted in the killing of 56 jihadists, capture of 21 and surrender of 21 others since Duterte assumed office.
According to Visaya, of the 579 operations, 426 were intended to finish off the ASG and its allied terrorist groups in the South.
“The operations led to 54 armed engagements resulting in the neutralization of 94 ASG bandits killed, wounded, apprehended or surrendered,” he said in his presentation.
A number of local terrorist groups are operating in Mindanao, notable among them are the ASG; the Maute group, which recently staged a daring jailbreak in Marawi City, freeing 23 detainees; and the Ansarul Khilafah in the Philippines or AKP.