MANILA (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday said the public can expect “significant accomplishments” in the government’s campaign against the Abu Sayyaf bandit group in the coming weeks.
During a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino said there are only 200 active Abu Sayyaf members at present.
He, however, admitted that the government should also “address the root causes” of the banditry, particularly poverty.
Earlier this week, Aquino said he had ordered a relentless hunt against the Abu Sayyaf after the group released two German hostages last week.
The German tourists – Stefan Victor Okonek and Henrike Diesen – were released reportedly after ransom was paid. The government, however, has insisted that the bandits’ claim of receiving ransom for the freedom of the Germans is just part of the group’s propaganda.
On Tuesday, the military said heavy rains were hindering their pursuit operations against the bandits in Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for several kidnapping and bombing incidents in southern Philippines in the past, is also supposedly getting logistical support from the global militant Islamist group al-Qaeda, according to local authorities.
The bandit group had also reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a jihadist militant group being accused of atrocities on Iraqi and Syrian territories. (MNS)