AFP chief orders more operations vs Abus PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2015 13:36

With the Abu Sayyaf Group suffering 14 dead and 19 wounded in Wednesday’s clash, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Thursday ordered the military to conduct more intensified operations against the ASG in Basilan and Sulu.

Catapang stressed that he intends to use both military and non-military approaches to deal with the ASG problem.

“This is not a pure military solution to this lingering social problem. I will commit troops to relentlessly pursue the armed bandits who are hiding in the jungles and another group of soldiers who will work with the local government and non-government organizations in addressing the wide array of community issues that are also attributed to the existence of the ASG,” he added.

Catapang added that the military will involve different stakeholders in helping the local government units deliver basic social services to the people.

He said that he is considering an option to send more troops to help flush out the ASG.

Catapang said that the AFP through the Western Mindanao Command will support socio-economic programs that will cater to livelihood, education, and counter-radicalization as part of the military’s ‘Whole of Government Approach’ of addressing the problem.

Meanwhile, Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, has identified the soldiers who died in the encounter on Feb. 25 as Cpl. Lonell Bautista, 35, of Emilio Aguinaldo, Cavite; and, Pfc. Ervin Roquero, 23, of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Sixteen other soldiers were slightly wounded by 40mm shrapnel in the running gunbattle that ensued.

Among those who were wounded include 1st Lt. Ramsel Dugan and 2nd Lt. Bernard Mabazza.

They were declaredout of danger by attending physicians.

Catapang has also expressed sorrow for the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties.

He said that he had extended his deepest sympathies to the family members of the fallen heroes.

“I could not describe my pain for losing another brave soldiers in the hands of Abu Sayyaf terrorists. I share the sorrow that is felt by their loved ones,” he said, adding, “I will make sure that appropriate honors will be given to these fallen heroes. These fine young men will not be forgotten,” Catapang stressed.

Following the bandits’ route of withdrawal, the troops pursued the bandits deep inside the jungles located in the adjacent sub-village of Kan Jimaw, Barangay Tugas, Patikul town.

Another firefight ensued at 9:15 a.m. Thursday when the Scout Rangers spotted at least 100 bandits led by Hatib Sawadjaan.

The troops spotted more casualties on the enemy side but they were dragged by the bandits after the 15-minute firefight.

The troops chased the bandits who fled towards Barangay Bakong of the same municipality.

Arrojado has poured in more troops including a group of policemen led by one Supt. Nantes to arrest the bandits who mingle with civilians in the nearby communities.

The troops belonging to the 35th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Marces Gayat, discovered an enemy encampment in the same village at around 11:40 a.m.

The camp can accommodate at least 50 persons.

Civilian tipsters also revealed that three Malaysian nationals who are members of the Jemaah Islamiya were coddled by the group of Sawadjaan.

As of 2 p.m., the JTG Sulu has pounded the enemy positions with mortar fire.

There were no reported casualties on both sides.