AFP chief cites Rody order: Rescue hostages, get Abus
ZAMBOANGA CITY—President Duterte has ordered the military to rescue Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and all other kidnap victims still held by the Abu Sayyaf—and then exterminate the group.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said here on Saturday the President “asked us to exert all efforts to rescue the Norwegian and the other victims.”
Mr. Duterte, he said, ordered him to use all available resources, logistics and manpower to secure the hostages—numbering over a dozen including 10 foreigners—and eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.
“As much as possible, we will add more troops and more resources, more augmentation—meaning all resources will be poured here. This is what President Duterte wants. [Our forces] will be focused here, meaning logistics, personnel,” Visaya said.
On Friday, Mr. Duterte said he did not consider the Abu Sayyaf a criminal group, but a band of people who had been pushed to the wall by circumstances.
“That’s why I am not including Abu Sayyaf [activities] in criminality. You’ve never heard me say [they are] criminal(s). It is a different setup there because these are guys who were driven to desperation,” the President had said during the recent Eid al-Fitr celebration in Davao City.
Duterte said he knew all about the situation “from Nur to the ARMM.”
“There was no sufficient semblance of governance and that was why they were pushed to the wall,” he said. “Then they became radicalized. ”
Visaya said the details of the rescue effort were confidential and no deadline had been set for the extermination of the Abu Sayyaf.
‘There’s no IS here’
As for fears the Islamic State (IS) international terror group had reached Mindanao, Visaya said this was not so.
He said the IS did not exist in Basilan or any part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and any claims were based on rumors and had not been validated.
“As far as we are concerned, this is raw information. We need to evaluate this information, but as of now there is no IS here,” he said.
He admitted, however, that what there were in the ARMM were groups claiming to support IS. Visaya once served as a Philippine Army brigade commander in Basilan.
Earlier, former Ungkaya Pukan (Basilan) Mayor Joel Maturan said IS existed in Basilan and its members had merged with the local Abu Sayyaf. He cited instances when black flags similar to the ones exhibited by IS in the Middle East had been seized in the province.
But like Visaya, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman dismissed claims IS had arrived in Basilan.
“There may be IS-inspired groups. For example, Isnilon Hapilon was seen in a video pledging allegiance to IS,” Hataman, a native of Basilan, said.
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