Arroyo Braves Sayyaf Island, Inspects Troops

August 23, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo shakes hands Thursday Aug. 23, 2007 with Marines in Basilan island who killed dozens of Abu Sayyaf militants in fierce clashes last week. Arroyo flew to the strife-torn island to meet with the soldiers involved in the offensive against the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group that has killed 57 soldiers in deadly battle in Basilan and nearby Jolo island since last month. Security is tight during Arroyo’s visit in Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Aug) – President Gloria Arroyo braved Thursday the southern island of Basilan, where troops are battling Abu Sayyaf militants tied to al-Qaeda terror network.

Arroyo inspected about 200 soldiers and shook hands and spoke with them. “Thank you very much for all your sacrifice. We are fighting terrorism here,” she said.

She said the troops in Basilan island must be accorded honors for the heroism in fighting the Abu Sayyaf. “You are all worthy of praises and honor,” she said.

The fighting in Basilan island had already killed over 40 Marines since last month and security forces are also battling another faction of Abu Sayyaf group and insurgents in the neighboring island of Jolo, where 15 Marines were slain.

Arroyo, accompanied by Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, also pledged to raise the soldiers’ combat pay, but did not say how much.

Each soldier is currently receiving about P240 of combat pay every month.

Arroyo was in Zamboanga City earlier in the day with Defense Secy. Gilbert Teodoro and Marine chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga and Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino where she presided over a closed-door meeting at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters.

Arroyo told reporters that the operation against the Abu Sayyaf and its allies will continue in Basilan and Jolo islands, where about 20,000 have fled their homes because of the fighting. She also met with Jolo Gov. Sakur Tan and told him that relief aid is on its way to help feed the thousands of war refugees.

A bomb explosion in nearby Zamboanga City on Tuesday left at least 14 people wounded and Esperon said the blast was possible carried out by the Abu Sayyaf in retaliation to the government offensive.

“There is a strong possibility that the blast was connected to the fighting. We must stay vigilant,” he said.

Authorities have tightened security in the southern region. Troops in Basilan island have put up checkpoints and roadblocks in highways during Arroyo’s visit.

Soldiers were spotted frisking civilians and searching vehicles for weapons and bombs.

Both the United States and Philippine governments have linked the Abu Sayyaf movement to Usama bin Laden. And the Washington tagged the group as a foreign terrorist organization and offered as much as five million dollars reward for the capture of its known leaders.

The Abu Sayyaf and Moro National Liberation Front insurgents are said to be protecting Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek. Both Indonesians were implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australian holiday-makers. (Mindanao Examiner)

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