Philippines ramps up Abu Sayyaf offensive
THE Philippine military has deployed thousands of extra troops to destroy an Islamic extremist group notorious for kidnapping foreigners, after 15 soldiers were killed.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered security forces to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf, which has declared allegiance to the Islamic State.
But an assault that began last week on the heavily forested island of Jolo, one of the Abu Sayyaf’s strongholds about 900 kilometres (550 miles) south of Manila, has met fierce resistance.
Fifteen troops were killed and another 10 were injured in a single encounter with the Abu Sayyaf on August 29, regional military spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said.
An additional 2500 troops were deployed to Jolo and nearby islands on August 30, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Major Tan said the extra troops would join two brigades already involved in the fighting. He declined to give specific numbers, but there are at least 1000 soldiers in a brigade.
He said the military would be able to achieve the goal set by Mr Duterte, but conceded the rough terrain and possible assistance from local Muslim residents were working to the Abu Sayyaf ’s advantage.
Mr Duterte, who has been in office for two months, initially called on the Abu Sayyaf to lay down their arms but quickly adopted a tougher stance when his overtures were rejected.
The military estimates it is fighting about 480 militants, but there could be more. The army says it has killed 30 militants, although this is impossible to verify. –