JOLO, Sulu-- Four top security officials arrived in this island province on Tuesday aboard the C-295 medium lift transport plane to oversee the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo AAo and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda immediately held a closed-door meeting with the ground commanders under Joint Task Force Sulu after their arrival at around 9 a.m.
Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said they will assess the ongoing "focus military offensive" against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his visit here last week, ordered the troops to crush the remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf as well as to rescue the hostages held by the bandits.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, information officer of Westmincom, said the four top officials will also meet with the local chief executives to determine the needed assistance to the communities affected by the fighting.
At least 32 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed since January this year. Six have been reported wounded while 23 were apprehended.
The biggest fatalities incurred by the Abu Sayyaf is in this province, where 30 were killed, including two sub-commanders.
"This will greatly affect their capability to conduct atrocities," Petinglay said.
So far, no government troopers have been killed, although it registered 28 wounded.
Task Force Sulu is employing a "focus military operation" to ensure the safety of the hostages.
To date, there are 31 kidnapped victims who are still in Sulu, 26 of them foreigners.
The calibrated military operation was ordered following the spike of atrocities launched by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
President Duterte on January gave the military at least six months to eliminate, if not significantly reduce the strength of the Abu Sayyaf.
Source: Philippines News Agency