MANILA — With the Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters now on the run after a government-initiated offensive, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered all unit commanders involved in the operation to continuously pursue and harry the bandits so that the latter’s capability to carry out atrocities will be greatly eliminated.
“I want to significantly lessen the bandits’ ability to carry out violent attacks against civilians before I retire in July 2015, he said.
Catapang, however, stressed that the military must be able to carry out their mandate while ensuring that collateral damage will be minimized.
“We can protect the civilian populace by isolating them from armed groups. We also need accurate information from the people themselves,” he added.
The AFP has so far killed 24 ASG bandits in its Sulu campaign against the group, while two soldiers were killed in the series of clashes in Sulu last week.
The Joint Task Group Sulu also received a report that Radulan Sahiron was wounded.
Meanwhile, the AFP had rendered departure honors for the two fallen heroes, Pfc. Roquero,22, and Cpl. Lonell Bautista, 34.
In Maguindanao, the 6th Infantry Division has cleared the Tacurong-Cotabato highway of BIFF bandits after the clashes in Datu Unsay on Friday.
Three soldiers were reported wounded in the three-hour firefight.
Field reports indicated that three Tausug lieutenants of Basit Usman were killed in the assault by the 601st Infantry Brigade troops.
More troops were sent in to scour the hiding places of Usman in the middle of the Liguasan marsh Sunday.
Meanwhile, Catapang has directed the line unit commanders to help in transporting the evacuees back to their respective villages.
“We want the civilians to live peacefully in their communities. This is the reason why we are driving the BIFF away from their homes,” he concluded.