Rain hinders offensive vs. Abu Sayyaf in Sulu – AFP PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:02

The Philippine military on Tuesday said heavy rains have slowed down pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits responsible for the abduction of two German tourists.

The German tourists – Stefan Victor Okonek and Henrike Diesen – were released last Friday reportedly after ransom was paid. The government, however, has insisted that the bandits’ claim of receiving ransom for the freedom of the Germans is just part of the group’s propaganda.

In an interview with reporters, Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the rain made it difficult for the military to track the bandit group in Sulu.

“Matatarik ‘yung mga lugar d’yan and tuloy-tuloy ‘yung ulan, sa tracking operations challenge ‘yan para sa reckon elements how to follow the tracks or ‘yung traces ng mga kalaban... Inanod na ‘yung mga traces nila...” Cabunoc said.

He noted that it has been raining since the start of the pursuit operations.

“Normal kasi doon sa lugar ang umuulan, talagang all year round umuulan dyan, akala mo laging tagulan, parang walang tag-init,” he added.

At the same time, Cabunoc said some members of the bandit group have mixed themselves with civilians.

“‘Yung paghalo nila sa mga civilian communities, mabigat na challenge ‘yun dahil ipinagbibilin sa amin, we are reminded to protect the rights of the people, we are not supposed to harm them, we are not supposed to cause collateral damage,” he said.

He noted that the military have sought the help of former members of Moro National Liberation Front to help identify those linked to the bandit group.

“That’s the reason why we also enlisted the help of these former MNLF rebels who are now in the Army to identify plain civilians because they know exactly who are those identified with the Abu Sayyaf group,” he added.

Inching closer?

On Monday, AFP chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the military was inching closer to the bandit group.

In an interview, Catapang said the military takeover of several Abu Sayyaf encampments on Sunday and Monday morning was an indication of an effective pursuit operation against the bandit group.

“Surely we will catch up with them,” Catapang said. “Dadating din yan, patience lang.”

On Sunday, the military discovered two abandoned hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul town in Sulu province, followed by the discovery of another smaller hideout on Monday.

The AFP earlier said it will continue its “full-scale” operations against the Abu Sayyaf, who abducted two German tourists in April.