MANILA-- A total of 32 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were reported killed in the past two months as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensifies its campaign against the brigands in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.
This is aside from the 22 ASG men reported wounded, 13 arrested, and two who voluntarily surrendered, said Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay.
ASG attrition started last Jan. 27.
The bodies of the 14 of slain 32 bandits were also recovered.
Twenty-eight soldiers had also been wounded, mostly in the five major clashes that occurred in the past two weeks, Petinglay said.
The latest encounter, which occurred early Sunday at the boundary of Talipao and Maimbung towns of Sulu, happened as soldiers spotted a group of ASG bandits holding six to 12 kidnap victims in a mangrove area.
In the same incident, around nine bandits were killed in the series of encounters.
This is aside from the 10 reported killed in Barangay Igasan, Patikul town, Sulu last March 3.
The military has been intensifying its operations against the ASG bandits following the beheading of German captive Juergen Kantner last Feb. 26 after his government refused to pay his PHP30 million ransom.
As this develops, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who is in Jolo, Sulu for a meeting with local officials, noted an increase in ASG kidnapping incidents.
As of this posting, an estimated 31 hostages are still in ASG hands.
Despite the increase, Lorenzana said the government remains on track on its six-month deadline to eliminate the bandit group.
The DND chief stressed that government forces are still working to rescue the hostages.
During his visit to Kutang Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Lorenzana pinned Gold Cross, Silver Cross, and Military Merit medals to two soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion and seven from the Marine Special Operations Group who figured prominently in the most recent clashes with the ASG.
Source: Philippines News Agency