Marine battalion off to Sulu to beef up hunt for terrorists
ZAMBOANGA CITY –– A Marine battalion has been deployed to Sulu to beef up the government’s security presence in the province, rocked by recent bombings in a military facility, and grappling with a long-running bout with terrorists.
Their mission: “Destroy the Abu Sayyaf … and establish a peaceful and stable environment in Sulu,” said Rear Admiral Erick Kagaoan, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao.
The deployment comes amid the twin attacks on an Army camp in Indanan, Sulu that killed eight persons, including the two bombers, and wounded 12 soldiers and 10 civilians.
Led by Lt. Col. Allan Tolentino, the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 (MBLT 8) is composed of 461 troops of which 442 are enlisted personnel, and 19 officers.
It replaces MBLT 3, which sailed to a new assignment in Palawan on June 27, just a day before the twin bombing attacks.
“This unit is not new here, they have been deployed in Mindanao before. They are needed in Sulu now,” Kagaoan said in the sidelines of sent-off rites Tuesday at the Port of Zamboanga.
Kagaoan is confident the forces are up to their task, saying the MBLT 8 forces are fresh from retraining in Cavite.
“This battalion has been newly refurbished and now ready for redeployment,” he added.
Kagaoan reminded the troops to “remain fearless in combat, vigilant in peace, and reliable partner of our people and community.”
Tolentino said a number of his men were “well versed of Sulu,” hence “ready to face the challenges in Sulu.”
“Our primary mission is to destroy the Abu Sayyaf, IS (Islamic State) and other terror groups in Sulu,” he added.
Tolentino emphasized the significant role of the local government and the community in going after the terrorists in the province.
The Marines’ presence in Sulu is overseen by the newly activated 4th Marine Brigade command led by Colonel Jonas Lumawag, replacing the dissolved Philippine Marines Ready Force under Colonel Armel Tolato.
Apart from MBLT 8, the brigade has also under its wings MBLT 1 and MBLT 7. (Editor: Leti Boniol)
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