Philippine government claims winning against extremist.
Summary: Successes claimed against Maute and Abu Sayyaf
Gilbert P. Felongco, Correspondent
Manila: The Philippine government has said it is making gains in its campaign against extremist groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute which operate in Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao respectively.
Lt-Gen Carlito Galvez Jr, chief of armed forces at Western Mindanao Command, said since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to launch an all-out campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi area, a total 258 Abu Sayyaf militants had been neutralised.
Lt-Gen. Galvez said during the military campaign launched by the Joint Task Forces of the Western Mindanao Command in January this year 94 hard-core members of the Abu Sayyaf Group were killed. He said 66 members of the group were apprehended and 98 surrendered during the campaign. He said that 148 firearms have recovered from Abu Sayyaf militants since the start of the campaign.
Duterte had ordered the launch of an unrelenting campaign against Abu Sayyaf after the group continued to prey on foreign and local civilians that it holds for ransom. The largely Sulu and Basilan-based militants also pounced on commercial shipping and victimised Malaysian, Indonesian and Caucasian targets.
The president had initially given six months from January to completely neutralise the group but revised the timetable to July this year on requests of military commanders implementing the orders.
Galvez said the door is open for more Abu Sayyaf members to surrender and turn in their firearms.
In Central Mindanao, the government claims it has rescued a total 1,717 people since it mounted operations to recover civilians from the battle zone with the help of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during the daily "Mindanao Hour" briefing that that as of July 2, 336 Maute terrorists were killed in the campaign in Marawi City while the government side lost 84 lives. He said that 402 high-powered arms were recovered from the terrorists during the campaign. He reiterated the government's policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
He said the civilians should cooperate with armed forces to maintain security in their communities. "If we work together, we can secure and keep our communities safe from all threats," he said.
Since the crisis in Marawi City started on May 23, government forces battled Maute terrorists in an urban setting, resulting in more casualties for both sides compared to the fighting in forests to which Philippine forces are more accustomed to.
Like Abu Sayyaf, Maute terrorists wants to establish a so-called Islamic caliphate in the Philippines. Prior to outbreak of hostilities in Marawi City, Maute leaders met Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Basilan.
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