AFP to stamp out Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group in 6-12 months, says DND chief
The military will crush the Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorist groups in six months to one year to put an end to kidnappings and bomb attacks in the South once and for all, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.
Lorenzana said the timetable set by the military was just right and that Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año was convinced the military could contain the two terrorist groups during that period, although an additional six months would be a big help.
For a start, he said, there will be big organizational changes at the Western Mindanao Command, which has jurisdiction over areas where the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups operate.
“We are going to do something new or innovative to finish this problem once and for all,” Lorenzana said, but declined to divulge details of the plan.
“We will prevent them from kidnapping more [people] and we will try to recover those [whom they are still holding captive],” he said, adding that the two groups are holding 27 local and foreign hostages.
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf since the bandit group killed two Canadian hostages — Robert Hall and John Ridsdel — last year.
Mr. Duterte apologized to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the killings and promised to arrest the “criminals and exact justice.”
But how he viewed the Abu Sayyaf became uncertain in July when he said during Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr celebration in Davao City that the kidnappings carried out by the group were not crimes.
“You’ve never heard me say [they are] criminals. It is a different setup there because these are the guys who were driven to desperation,” he said.
On Aug. 12, however, he said he did not know who the Abu Sayyaf bandits were and what they stood for, but “we have to destroy them.”
On Aug 26, he said he once admired the Abu Sayyaf and he had ordered the police and the military to “destroy them because they are criminals.”
He said the government had all the resources to finish the Abu Sayyaf in one week.
In September last year, speaking at a side event to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos, Mr. Duterte vowed to make the Abu Sayyaf pay for their crimes, saying he would “eat” the bandits “alive.”
The Maute Group is believed to be responsible for the bomb attack on a night market in Davao City that killed 15 people and injured 70 others on Sept. 2 last year.
The group is also a suspect in the two explosions that injured 32 people in Hilongos, Leyte province, on Dec. 28.
Mr. Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police to crush the Maute Group as soon as possible.
In the case of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which the government is talking peace, Lorenzana said he was satisfied with support and cooperation from local residents in combating the violent group.
To beef up its forces, Lorenzana said, the AFP will recruit 10,000 soldiers this year. President Duterte approved the recruitment last year, he added.
Lorenzana said the recruits would be trained for one year then would be deployed in 2018. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH