Abu Sayyaf, BIFF, NPA: Army’s next targets after Hapilon, Maute deaths
MARAWI CITY — The military said its next target would be the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año made the pronouncement on Monday after he confirmed the death of Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, leaders of Islamic State-inspired terrorists fighting government forces here since May 23.
Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf based in Basilan, was the head of the IS in Southeast Asia, while Omar was one of the leaders behind the Maute Terrorist Group.
Año told reporters that they were going to run after the Abu Sayyaf in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan, as well as the BIFF men that pledged allegiance with the ISIS in Central Mindanao.
“Our timeline is to finish all the Maute, ASG and BIFF until the end of 2017. So this will continue. There will be no let up. It’s about time to end these terrorists here in Mindanao,” Año said.
In 2008, the BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and had vowed to continue the uprising, claiming that the Malaysian-brokered talks would not lead to a separate Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf group, founded in the early 1990s by Islamic extremists, is notorious for kidnappings, bombings and even beheadings in southern Philippines.
Año said the BIFF does not have the capability like what the Maute gunmen did in Marawi.
“The BIFF threat is more on conducting bombings and some rampaging in some of our isolated communities. But they cannot take over, let’s say Cotabato City, General Santos City or any particular big municipality in Central Mindanao because our forces are strategically located and we have the MILF cooperating with us,” Año said.
“If we go and run after them and focus our operation there, it would be easier than the Marawi operations,” he added.
As for the NPA, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they will intensify operations against the the rebel group.
“We have been operating against them even [when] we have this Marawi crisis or the Abu Sayyaf. We will just increase our intensity in running after them because Marawi will be over and we can again bring back some of the units that we got from the areas that have NPA,” Lorenzana told reporters.
He said the units they got from Eastern Mindanao, Bacolod, and Samar will be sent back to address the issues regarding the NPA.
The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for four decades.
Military estimates placed the NPA strength at more than 5,000 scattered in more than 60 guerrilla fronts throughout the country. /je
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