THE government’s focused military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province of Sulu continue to gain headway, military officials said.

Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Arnel dela Vega said it will just be a matter of time before the troops will engage the ASG and punch a decisive blow into the bandits’ ranks and leadership.

Dela Vega on Monday, September 12, visited the soldiers to boost the morale of the troops in the frontline fighting the Abu Sayyaf bandits in hinterlands of Patikul and Talipao municipalities.

He met with Colonel Jesus Manangquil and Colonel Jose Faustino, 101st and 501st Infantry Brigade commanders, respectively, to be appraised on the progress of the focused military operations.

The Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade is based in Patikul town, while the 501st is based in Talipao municipality.

Manangquil said the troops are slowly constricting the movements of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, although they are familiar with the terrain.

“The familiarity of terrain is a noted advantage to them as of now but as our troops conduct more operations and patrols and become more familiar with the terrain, we will negate that advantage and we will deliver a decisive blow against the ASG (bandits),” Manangquil said.

“We have to cleanse Sulu of the scourge of the Abu Sayyaf and make this place peaceful so that economic activity and tourism will prosper,” Faustino said.

So far, 59 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed since the start of the focused military operations last month.

Of the 59 casualties, 32 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed in Sulu and 27 in Basilan.

The government troops suffered 18 killed in action, wherein 15 were killed in Sulu and three in Basilan.

Twenty-eight other soldiers, including one in Basilan, were wounded as the focused military operations continue.