MANILA –Once we have started it, we have to finish it!”
These were the fighting words of Army Col. Cirilito E. Sobejana, a decorated combat officer who was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest military award, for leading his men, though outnumbered, in a mortal combat against the Abu Sayyaf in Maluso, Basilan on Jan. 13, 1995, killing 42 terrorists, body count.
In a phone conversation with this writer, Sobejana, who recently assumed his post as the new commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the all-out war on terror ordered by Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Aňo will be sustained until the Abu Sayyaf will be crushed.
The offensive against the terrorist group was launched days before the terrorists had announced they would behead their German hostage Jurgen Gustav Kantner if the PHP30 million ransom demand would not be paid by February 26.
But the government has maintained its no-ransom policy and ordered the military to launch an operation in a bid to rescue Kantner.
However, the rescue operation failed and the German hostage was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf last week.
The headless body of Kantner was only recovered Saturday in Sitio Talibang, Barangay Buanza, in Indanan, Sulu. His severed head was also retrieved by government forces.
Sobejana vowed that there will be no let-up in the military operation against the Abu Sayyaf, “So far, we have killed 14 Abu Sayyaf terrorists, body count. On our side we suffered 30 wounded in action but their wounds are superficial,” Sobejana said.
“My soldiers were hit by shrapnel from M203 grenade launchers,” he added.
Sobejana said “artillery fire from 105mm howitzers are being used to pound the retreating Abu Sayyaf. This is being supplemented by aerial fire delivered by the Air Force and naval gunfire from the Philippine Navy.”
Sobejana said the Joint Task Force will press the fight to wipe out once and for all the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.