Philippine Army Recalls Troops In SuluApril 15, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
Policemen, armed with assault rifle, man the traffic at a busy road in the town of Jolo in the southern Philippine province of Sulu. Hundreds of soldiers have been recalled by the Army and will be redeployed in Mindanao Island as part of a new strategy to combat insurgency. Marines have taken over the role of the Army in counter-insurgency in Sulu and also in the province of Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, all part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 15, 2008) – The Philippine Army recalled hundreds of soldiers from the southern province of Sulu as part of the military’s new deployment strategy, officials said Tuesday.
In January, thousands of army soldiers were also pulled out from Sulu and deployed to other provinces in Mindanao Island. The Philippine Marines will solely take over the security operation in Sulu, about 950 kilometers from Manila.
Officials said the latest pull out of soldiers, which began Sunday, will realign marine and army forces in the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao. Marine soldiers are also in Tawi-Tawi and Basilan provinces.
The army troops would be deployed in central Mindanao, a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group.
Ten of thousands of troops were sent to Sulu the past years to fight the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda of Usama bin Laden and the Indonesian militant Jemaah Islamiya.
But many of the Abu Sayyaf’s known leaders had either been killed or captured and the group has dwindled over the past decade from more than a thousand fighters to about 200. And the group is fragmented and without a leader after Army special forces killed Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain, in a firefight in September 2006.
Janjalani, a former government spy, took over from his elder brother, Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani after the Libyan firebrand was killed in a gun battle with policemen in Basilan Island in December 1998.
Marine Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, Sulu military chief, said there is no need to maintain a huge number of soldiers in the province because the troops have already accomplished their earlier missions with the killings and capture of many Abu Sayyaf members.
“Sulu needs fewer troops since the threat problems have remarkably dropped and the threat level is now more manageable,” Sabban said.
He attributed the success of the military operations to effective intelligence and through various development and humanitarian projects in partnership with the Sulu provincial government.
Sulu Governor Sakur Tan is active in humanitarian mission and has lined up various development projects in mostly poor areas in the province’s 19 towns. Just last month, Tan funded the construction of at least 50 bamboo houses, worth over P26,500 each, for poor Badjao families in Tandu Bato in Luuk town.
The project called “Operation Kandili – Preserving a unique culture through providing homes for the Badjao,” is a partnership between the Philippine Marines and the Sulu provincial government, Tan said.
At least 50 more bamboo houses in Luuk town will be constructed soon. Tan also donated a basketball court in the village and pledged to release more funding for education and poverty alleviation programs.
”We have been funding and implementing a lot of projects in Sulu and all these are part of our peace and development programs. We want a culture of peace and this can be achieved through education and basic infrastructure projects and with the participation of course, of the people themselves,” he said
Sabban said the Abu Sayyaf is now on the run because of the sustained military campaign and the lack of support from Muslims in Sulu.
“Intelligence reports disclosed that the Abu Sayyaf group is experiencing leadership and funding problems which barred them from launching more major attacks. The ASG is losing its appeal and influence. Even within their ranks, followers are no longer convinced of the groups’ aspirations.” “Nevertheless, the remaining soldiers will continue to uphold the utmost level of vigilance and defense. They will stand tall and unfazed in confronting terrorism and defeat it,” Sabban said.
Last week, policemen and soldiers rescued a local trader, Rosalie Lao, kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo town in January, after a brief running gun battle. Lao was the last Abu Sayyaf hostage in Sulu.
Six local traders selling gasoline were also kidnapped last week, but freed later after their families paid ransom. Police said the old debt triggered the kidnapping of the men.
Authorities have blamed the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf in the twin bombings over the weekend in Zamboanga City. Although no one was killed or injured in the attacks, the military appealed to citizens to stay vigilant.
“We appeal to the public to remain calm and we assure the situation is under control and now back to normal. Police and military have intensified its efforts to keep the city and other places secure and safe from terrorist threats,” said Air Force Major Gamal Hayudini, commander of the military’ 4th Civil Relations Group. (Mindanao Examiner)