Philippine gov't troops neutralize 19 Abu Sayyaf militants in first 5 months

08:44, June 27, 2011      

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have captured and killed 19 Abu Sayyaf militants in the first five months this year, a military spokesman said Sunday.

"From January to May, the AFP has already initiated 12 operations against the terrorist group resulting in the neutralization of 19 ASG (Abu Sayyaf group) elements..This includes captured and killed," said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos.

Formed in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf is blamed for a number of high-profile bombings and kidnappings. The group has links with the Southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah and the al-Qaeda.

He said the strength of the Abu Sayyaf is now down to about 386. The group's peak strength reached 1,200 in 2000 when it earned huge ransom from the kidnapping of 21 people, mostly Caucasians, from Sipadan diving resort in Malaysia.

Burgos revealed a downtrend in the number of Abu Sayyaf atrocities compared with the same period last year. "There is a 63 percent decrease in terms of their terroristic violence," he said.

Burgos attributed the decrease to the "proactive measures of the AFP."

"They (Abu Sayyaf militants) are not able to (launch more atrocities) if security forces are relentless in their operations, " said Burgos.

Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade said Army's special forces have been effective in fighting the Abu Sayyaf in the southern island province of Basilan.

"Since its deployment, the unit has posted significant gains in its campaign to eradicate the perils of terrorism in the southern Philippines," said Parlade. The elite troops were deployed to Basilan during the fourth quarter of last year, replacing the marines.

Parlade said the feat of the special forces were due to the " steady flow of valuable information from the civilians," noting the combat operations were complemented by peace and development initiatives.

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