ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Armed Forces of the Philippines -Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) has warned residents of Sulu and Basilan province not to “harbor or give protection” to any members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the military is serious in eliminating the ASG including all those that are giving protection to the bandits.
AFP-WestMinCom Chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz said Tuesday. “Kung sinuman ang humarang o tumulong sa ASG, sasagasaan kayo ng mga sundalo ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).”
Dela Cruz said the intensive military operations will continue in Sulu and in Basilan which aims to liberate the two provinces from ASG infestation and bring normalcy to the island and peace to its people.
“What you see is just the tip of the iceberg, more troops, more equipment and more firepower will be committed to destroy the ASG in Sulu and Basilan,” Dela Cruz added.
Dela Cruz said the killing of 15 soldiers including a junior officer and injuring of 10 others in Patikul, Sulu, last Monday will not dampen the fighting spirit of soldiers.
“The momentum is on our side and we will continue this fight until we accomplish the mission, that is to eliminate the existence of the ASG and restore peace and tranquility in the two provinces,” Dela Cruz emphasized.
The government has sent an additional 750 soldiers to Sulu to help the 10 battalions of soldiers now in the area currently pursuing the ASG.
The government has also mobilized sea, air and ground assets in the fight against the terror bandits.
The intensified military operations which started last August 26 in Sulu, has led to 30 deaths on the side of the dreaded group which also included its sub-leaders.
Joint Task Force Sulu Commander, Brigadier General Arnel de la Vega said intense fighting in Sulu is still going on.
Dela Vega also revealed that ASG leader Jamiri Jawong Jauhari was wounded during an encounter with soldiers last Monday in Sitio Kugan, Barangay Bakung, Patikul, Sulu.
The military on Monday said that the bodies of at least 16 ASG members have been recovered in Patikul and Talipao, Sulu after a series of firefights.
Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, commander, Western Mindanao Command, told ABS-CBN News the Abu Sayyaf death toll in the latest skirmishes has climbed to 22. Among them were ASG leaders Mohammad Said alias Ama Maas, Latip Sapii, and Sairulla Asbang.
Meantime, The AFP paid tribute to the 15 soldiers of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion who gave their lives in efforts of crushing the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Army Major Filemon Tan Jr., AFP WestMinCom spokesman, said the fifteen soldiers led by Army 2nd Lt. Ernan P. Gusto, 33, married, of Isabela province, were immortalized as heroes when they died in Patikul, Sulu on Monday August 29, which incidentally was National Heroes Day.
“Our forces fought gallantly, the firefight was intense and our troops sacrificed their lives to give the next generation the peace and security they truly deserve,” Tan said in a statement.
(With a report from Francis T. Wakefield) (NONOY E. LACSON)