Philippine government combat troops, supported by earth-moving equipment, attack gunship helicopters and war planes arrived Sunday in various strategic and specific " target" areas in Central Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula, particularly in Basilan province, reported the official Philippine News Agency.
The military move came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejected an ultimatum issued by the military to surrender those responsible for the killing and beheading of some government soldiers earlier this month in Basilan.
The troops are to "hit hard" the running and remaining terrorists, specially the Abu Sayyaf Group rebels and the alleged breakaway group of the MILF, said the report.
On Sunday, at least 28 six-by-six trucks, fully loaded with combat maneuvering battalions were deployed at various areas in Central Mindanao while another Marine battalion of around 500 troops also arrived in Basilan province to join the hunt for suspected MILF rebels who recently killed 14 Marines, beheading and mutilating 10 of them, said the report.
A company of well-trained elite Presidential Security Group is also deployed in Basilan to augment military forces as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered it to extend whatever support it can give to soldiers in Zamboanga Peninsula and the island of Basilan neighboring the peninsula.
Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, area command chief of the military's Western Mindanao Command refused to disclose the exact number of combat troops now deployed at what he called "specific targets".
Military chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. chaired a command conference with his field unit commanders in Zamboanga last week on "Oplan Final Ultimatum 2", a military code for an imminent operation against terrorist cells in Mindanao.