By UPDATE PHILIPPINES
The all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group will continue without letup, according to Brig. Gen. Resty Padilla Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In an interview, Padilla said the AFP’s Joint Task Force Sulu commanded by newly promoted Army Brig. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, is the main unit tasked to track down some 300 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in southern Philippines, mostly on the island of Sulu and nearby islets. Contacted by telephone, Sobejana confirmed the directive of AFP chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Aňo on the unrelenting war against the Abu Sayyaf which has not stopped their nefarious activities of kidnapping innocent civilians, including foreigners and beheading some of them if families of their victims failed to pay ransom. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding about 30 hostages to date. Since assuming as Joint Task Force Sulu commander, Sobejana, a veteran combat officer, has intensified the pressure against the terrorists giving them no quarters. “This has forced the terrorists to run, but we will pursue them wherever they are,” Sobejana said. Ground forces conducting combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf are supported by artillery of the Philippine Army, and planes and helicopter gunships of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Philippine Navy (PN) has also intensified its sea patrol around Sulu and nearby Tawi- Tawi islands to prevent the terrorists from escaping. Aside from kidnapping, the Abu Sayyaf is also engaged in drug trafficking to raise funds for their terroristic activities which must be stopped, Sobejana said. He also said that Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rahmi, who was killed in Bohol last week following a gun battle with government forces, was the most notorious Abu Sayyaf member and is believed to have led the recent beheading of foreign hostages. Rahmi slipped out of Sulu because of the intensified military offensive on the island and went to Bohol together with some of his henchmen but five of them, including Rahmi was killed. He reiterated that the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf will be unrelenting until the terrorist group is neutralized.