ANILA—The government’s all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists hiding in the jungles of Sulu and Basilan is being boosted with the deployment for the first time of naval gunboats armed with surface-to-surface missiles, according to Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.
In an exclusive interview with PNA on Wednesday, Lorenzana said the surface-to-surface missiles are the latest weapons acquired by the Philippine Navy (PN) as the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which is long overdue.
The Joint Task Force Sulu of the military presently commanded Army Col. Cirilito Sobejana, has mounted a relenting offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in the island of Sulu since Monday following the beheading of Jurgen Gustav Kantner, a German national hostage by the Abu Sayyaf since November last year.
Sobejana, a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the highest AFP medal for bravery in combat, has ordered a ground and air assaults on Abu Sayyaf lairs in the jungles of Sulu without letup.
Lorenzana said the deployment of naval gunboats armed with surface-to-surface missiles against the terrorist group shows the determination of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to crush once and for all the Abu Sayyaf.
He condemned the Abu Sayyaf for beheading Kantner, who had not committed a wrong doing against the terrorist group, adding that beheading is inhuman.
Lorenzana, a retired major general of the Philippine Army, and a highly decorated combat officer as commander of the famed Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army, said he expects the AFP to crush the Abu Sayyaf in a year.
He said that based on intelligence report there are about 300 Abu Sayyaf armed with high-powered firearms.
Even before the beheading, the Joint Task Force has been pounding Abu Sayyaf lairs with 105mm howitzers and helicopter gunships of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), using air-to-ground rockets and M60 machine guns the past week in an effort to rescue Kantner.
Some of the government troops pursuing the terrorists are equipped with night vision goggles.
Lorenzano said the AFP will buy additional night vision devices to upgrade their fighting capability at night.
“We will buy more for our soldiers,” Lorenzana said.
Night vision goggles enable the soldiers to operate at night and see the enemy where they are hiding during combat at night.