By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government troops are still hunting down close to 150 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Basilan and Jolo.
Lorenzana made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte reminded soldiers to not allow themselves to fall victims or hostages of terrorists groups and urged them to destroy and kill them.
In a speech in at Camp Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters, Brgy. Bus-bus, Jolo, Sulu Saturday night, Duterte said he will support the soldiers in their fight against terrorists.
In a separate interview, Lorenzana said as far as he is concerned, there are still an estimated 100 Abu Sayyaf terrorists still hiding in Jolo while in Basilan there are about 35 of them still being pursued by the military.
“Kaya nga mahirap hanapin dahil kakaunti na lang sila eh (That’s why its hard to find them because there number has dwindled),” Lorenzana told reporters during the heroes welcome accorded for the returning 700-man contingent on board BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF17) which participated in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018, the biggest and most prestigious naval exercise in the world held in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The heroes welcome was held Monday at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila.
Lorenzana, in the same interview, said that the Abu Sayyaf suffered a significant drop in the number of their membera brought about by the relentless operatons conducted by troops comprising the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu and JTF Basilan.
He added that a significant number of Abu Sayyaf terrorists have also surrended since the start of the year.
“Oo signficant drop talaga (There was a significant drop). So kung meron naman silang window to surrender, kung magsu-surrender pero if they continue to create, to commit atrocities, (we wil go after them),” he said.
Lorenzana said the Abu Sayyaf continues to hold a total of nine hostages in Jolo, Sulu, some of whom have been in captivity for two years already.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the military is also after some 100 to 150 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedoom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao. (Francis T. Wakefield)