THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in an interview with the national defense press corps claimed Wednesday that the number of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members has decreased in the last three months.

Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Chief Lieutenant General Ben Dolorfino said that from 409 in the third quarter of last year, the ASG strength has dwindled to 391.

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Dolorfino said the ASG is recruiting new members, expecting the rebel group strength to increase.

Asked if the government has minimized its operations against the ASG, Dolorfino said that on the contrary they have been conducting military operations against the ASG incessantly even during the holidays.

"Tuloy-tuloy kahit nga dapat break na e, nag-ooperate pa e. Potent threat pa rin sila kaya yung focus pa rin namin sa Abu Sayyaf for 2010, especially yung protection of the people and vital installations from terrorism. No letup ang ating campaign against them," Dolorfino said.

The WestMinCom chief said that their focus at the moment is on the top leaders of the ASG.

Dolorfino has identified the rebel group's top leaders as Doctor Abu, Isnilon Hapilon, Albader Parad, and Radulan Sahiron. Dolorfino said they are also running after top Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leaders in the country like Dulmatin, Omar Patek, Marwan and Mawiya.

Dolorfino said the JI strength in Mindanao remains at 23. (Ben O. Tesiorna)