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Monday, January 9, 2017

Philippine Armed Forces vows to destroy Abu Sayyaf, other terror groups ‘in 6 months’

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is targeting to destroy Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist and lawless groups in six months’ time, defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday, January 9.

Aside from Abu Sayyaf, the military is also targeting to defeat the Maute Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines.

“For the record, our goal is to defeat the Abu Sayyaf, the Maute etc.,” Lorenzana said in an interview shortly after the joint DND–AFP New Year’s Call 2017 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. “That was the target given by chief of staff Gen. [Eduardo] Año. Let’s see if we could do that in the next six months. But if not, we can extend it by the end of the year.”

Lorenzana said that as part of the guidance relayed by President Rodrigo Duterte during the joint AFP and Philippine National Police command conference in Malacañang last Friday, part of their target is to also stop the incidents of piracy, kidnappings and bombings in Mindanao.

One way of achieving this goal, Lorenzana said, is to reorganize and deploy fresh new troops “so that we can have a fresh approach in order to destroy these lawless elements. That’s also what the president said.”

Lorenzana balked at elaborating the strategy they will use.“We cannot tell you what we will do, we’ll just do it. The enemy might learn of our operational plans and prepare for it if we divulge it. But we are going to do something new or innovative to finish this problem once and for all.”

Lorenzana said the AFP is doing its best to safely recover the 27 hostages (1 German, 1 Dutch, 1 Korean, 6 Vietnamese, 5 Malaysians, 4 Indonesians and 9 Filipinos) still in Abu Sayyaf’s hands in Sulu and Basilan.

He also expressed confidence that their goal of defeating terrorist groups operating in the country is “doable” or attainable.

“I think so because the people and local officials there are also desiring to have peace. We just have to do the best we can, by combining military and development projects in order to stop what they are doing,” Lorenzana said.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Año said 51 battalions (about 22,500 troops) are currently deployed in the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) to defeat the Abu Sayyaf.

“Not in our history there has been that massive deployment of our troops. But we are going to make sure that our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf will be, we don’t want to prolong the fighting there,” he said. “When we say significant defeat, it means we have rendered their capabilities very minimal.”

Año said the military will intensify its intelligence monitoring to track down Abu Sayyaf.

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