ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels ambushed a group of elite army soldiers sent to hunt down the pro-Islamic State group in Sulu.
The weekend fighting erupted in a hinterland village near the town of Parang, where members of the Scout Rangers had been deployed. More than a dozen rebels opened fire on the soldiers, sparking fierce clashes.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command did not release any report on the fighting, but President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly ordered security forces to finish off the ASG.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also ordered the military during a meeting here, to put an end to the ASG’s terror activities.
“We need to do it now,” he said.
Lorenzana also called on local officials to help fight Islamic extremism as he met last month with the governors of the Muslim autonomous region, led by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, at the headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao province.
Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said the provincial government and all 19 municipal mayors were all out in their support of the campaign against the ASG that is blamed for the twin suicide bombings in
January of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, which left dozens of casualties, and for two suicide attacks on an army base in Indanan town that killed eight people and wounded over two dozens.
Ebrahim said they were addressing the security situation in the Muslim region, especially in Sulu and Basilan, where the ASG is actively operating.
Tan appealed to the regional and national governments to help in local efforts to address poverty in Sulu, which he said is a magnet for violent Islamic extremism.
The military confirmed that one of two bombers in Indanan town was Norman Lacusa, a member of the ASG.
Wilfred Nasol, regional director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in the Muslim autonomous region, also briefed those in the meeting about the 50-year old communist insurgency problems, and pro-IS groups and terrorists operating in the country, their propaganda campaigns.
Nasol also outlined the government’s response to these threats, especially addressing Islamic extremism and adapting the so-called National Peace Framework.
He was referring to President Duterte’s Executive Order. 70, which he signed in December last year establishing a “whole-of-nation approach” in ending communist armed conflict through the creation of a national task force that will take the lead in institutionalizing a national peace framework to attain inclusive and sustainable peace through various initiatives.
The whole-of-nation approach is essential for this peace framework to work and benefit the people of Mindanao, Nasol said.