Abu Sayyaf to be beaten by year-end: AFP spokesman
MANILA – A military spokesman said Sunday that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) plans to defeat the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group by the end of this year despite numerous setbacks in the past.
"We are confident we can handle this problem of the Abu Sayyaf. We have set up a target that we should defeat them by the end of this year," said AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner.
He told a local radio station that the group, which has been blamed for the worst terrorist attacks in Philippine history, was down to just above 300 members from more than 700 some years back.
"Their ranks have gone down and while they have some new recruits, it is mostly young boys lured by the promise of monetary rewards and the bearing of arms," Brawner said.
He also said there were internal squabbles among the leaders of the group which is based largely on the southernmost islands of Basilan and Sulu.
Brawner also echoed the latest statement from Malacañang which rejected the proposed offer of amnesty to members of the bandit group who would surrender to the government.
“… yun nga ang pinaka final word na natanggap natin na wala talagang magiging amnesty for the Abu Sayyaf Group at ito na rin yung kukunin nating cue from our national leadership na talagang maglunsad na kami ng all-out effort, said Brawner.
But he said the government would be carrying out "developmental efforts" to address the poverty in the southern islands that helped foster the Muslim extremists.
Brawner reiterated a statement form newly-installed Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino.
“Ayom na rin po kay Gen Dolorfino, what we need to do now is to address really the rootcauses of the problem kaya’t ang makikita po natin in the next few months is not purely combat operations… this will be coupled with developmental efforts,” said Brawner.
The military spokesman said that multi-sectoral stakeholders with security forces would coordinate and assist each other’s efforts to resolve the problem.
He also said troops have had difficulty chasing the Abu Sayyaf because of the rough jungle terrain and the difficulty of finding the small bands.
Intelligence agencies have said that the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden helped in the formation of the Abu Sayyaf group more than a decade ago.
The group has carried out bombings and mass kidnappings in the south, mostly targeting Christians and foreigners. It has raised money by ransoming hostages but has also killed some when they were not paid promptly.
While the Philippine military has killed and captured many Abu Sayyaf leaders -- partly through US assistance -- the extremists remained active and in January they held three international Red Cross workers hostage for months.
Two hostages were freed in April while the last hostage, Italian Eugenio Vagni was released on July 12 after nearly six months in captivity.
The government has already opened peace talks with the country's main Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but the Abu Sayyaf is not covered by the talks and the MILF leadership deny that they have links to the Abu Sayyaf. With abs-cbnNEWS.com