After meeting 25 surrendered Sayyaf fighters, Lorenzana says Abu Sayyaf strength declining
MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the strength of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a homegrown terror group with links to Islamic State, is on the decline, citing a series of recent surrenders by ASG fighters and gains made by government anti-terror programs.
Lorenzana met with 25 surrendered ASG members at the 11th Infantry Division headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on Friday (Jan. 22) on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit there.
Sulu is the lair of an ASG faction that has defied massive military operations and continued to operate.
One of the ASG fighters who surrendered early this month, 60-year-old Arsad Hajihil, told Lorenzana that he was grateful for the assistance offered by the government, a statement from Joint Task Force Sulu said.
Hajihil vowed to make use of the second chance given to him by leading a more peaceful and productive life.
Lorenzana urged the surrendered ASG fighters to convince their comrades to surrender themselves.
“It is my utmost hope that we ultimately defeat the ASG and surely, with the concerted and sustained efforts of our troops, local government units here in Sulu, we will attain peace in the region,” the defense secretary was quoted as saying.
“To our brothers here who surrendered, you have made the right and best decision. Help the others (ASG members) change for the better. You will not be neglected, you will not be left alone. You will be taken care of by our government,” he said.
Previous administrations had adopted a policy of no negotiations with ASG, a terror group involved in kidnappings, murders and bombings.
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