ZAMBONGA CITY- Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have abducted a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Patikul, Sulu, military officials disclosed Friday.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said SSgt. Anni Siraji of the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion was forcibly taken by about seven persons at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday while he was heading to Barangay Igasan, Patikul, Sulu.
A native of Sulu, Siraji joined the AFP through the integration program of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF.
Sobejana said his command immediately dispatched a platoon of soldiers to conduct a pursuit operation at the general area where the abductors fled.
The recent abduction incident involving our soldier should not be a reason for us to back out but should further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims, he said.
He said Patikul town is one of the main target areas of military offensives for three months now, as it was reported to be a known stronghold of the bandits.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the abduction "is a desperate attempt of the ASG to pressure the military to slow down its offensive against them."
It is frustrating that a Tausug soldier, who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come to his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe, Galvez said.
He urged the residents in Sulu to collectively help the military to end the menace of the ASG.
I firmly believe that as long as we are together on this, we will be able to disallow these bandits to continue creating havoc and fear to everyone, he said.
For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family, he added.
The military claimed that they are making a headway in the offensive against the ASG following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to crush the bandit group in six months starting January.
Around 50 ASG members have been killed while 17 others have surrendered in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi since January this year.
Source: Philippines News Agency