MANILA, Philippines – Addressing threats of Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines will remain a priority of the military.
The assurance came Monday as the Abu Sayyaf group remains engaged in guerrilla operations and criminal activities for financial gains based on the Armed Forces of the Philippines mid-year assessment report on internal security operations.
Since the implementation of the anti-insurgency strategy Internal Peace Security Plan Bayanihan on January 1, 2011, ASG figures remained close to 400 based on military estimates. Although for 2013, the ASG strength went down by 13 from last year, from 398 in 2012 to 385 in 2013. In 2011, ASG were figured at 381.
The IPSP campaign plan is looking into making internal security threats, which includes the ASG, irrelevant by 2016. At the same time, the AFP is also facing the challenge of diminishing about 4,000 communist rebels by 2016 (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/443095/afp-data-shows-npa-strength-hasnt-waned).
The ASG’s semi-autonomous sub-groups’ operations and activities are mostly confined in some municipalities of Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi, the report said.
The Abu Sayyaf is linked to the country’s worst terror attacks, and is on the list of the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
When IPSP was put in effect, the military has been able to neutralize 175 ASG personalities, recover 69 firearms and thwart 25 IED attacks. For the last six months, 17 ASG were killed in clashes with the military.
“The neutralization ensures that we are a step closer to having a secure security environment in the region especially in Sulu and Basilan area so their neutralization is an assurance that we’re headed to a more secure and stable security environment,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told reporters Monday.
“Our timeline for the Abu Sayyaf is to defeat them at the soonest possible time, they are priority,” Zagala said.