CATBALOGAN CITY -- More than 300 soldiers in Samar were deployed to Mindanao Wednesday afternoon (August 31) to augment the military forces fighting the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Jolo, Sulu.
A total of 297 soldiers and 14 military officers were sent off in two batches last Wednesday at Calbayog City Airport in Samar aboard C130 Hercules.
The more than 300 soldiers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Carmelito Pangatungan of the 63rd Infantry “Innovator” Battalion, were tasked to augment military forces pursuing the deadly fighters of Abu Sayyaf known for beheading kidnap victims and enemy soldiers.
Last May 29, around 200 soldiers from the 19th Infantry Battalion in Leyte were also sent to the war-torn Mindanao with the specific mission to seek and destroy the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The military went full force in their combat operations against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf after the bandits beheaded a poor villager who failed to pay ransom.
Few days ago, 15 soldiers pursuing the bandits were killed in action during a fierce fighting in Patikul, Sulu.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, during a nationwide telecast, said the government is now in “full force” to destroy the enemy.
“We are going full force in all-out operations against them. We are adding five battalions or about 2,500 people and they’ll only be in Sulu,” Abella said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his earlier visit to the 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan City, made mention of his standing order to hunt down and destroy the bandits in their jungle bases after learning about the latest beheading activity of the extremists.
“I can no longer tolerate the Abu Sayyaf’s barbaric activities,” Duterte said.
Two months ago, at least 10 battalions or 5,000 government troops were deployed to Sulu to go after the Abu Sayyaf group that beheaded two Canadian nationals in the last two months.
Major Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said all resources from land, sea and air have been made available for Sulu operations.
He said troops from all the service commands like the Philippine Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy, and the different support commands like the Scout Rangers and Special Force have been operating in Sulu. (Ricky Bautista)