Security forces mounted fresh operations on Saturday, July 30, 2011 - the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan - against Abu Sayyaf militants who killed and decapitated 7 soldiers and wounded 21 more in the southern Filipino island of Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 30, 2011) – Security forces mounted fresh operations on Saturday - the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan - against Abu Sayyaf militants who killed and decapitated 7 soldiers and wounded 21 more in the southern Filipino island of Sulu, officials said.
Officials said the operations are aimed at flushing out militants tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya in the island where fighting broke out on Friday that also killed 13 Abu Sayyaf fighters.
Troops also recovered on Saturday the head of one marine in Patikul town, the same area where some 70 militants clashed with security forces. The bodies of soldiers were airlifted to Manila where weeping families waited for the wooden caskets of those who perished in the military offensive codenamed “Wild Finger.”
The operations are aimed at capturing or killing two of Abu Sayyaf most notorious leaders Radulan Sahiron and Isnilon Hapilon and suspected Jemaah Islamiya militants hiding on the island.
President Benigno Aquino condemned the killings of the soldiers and said pursuit operations will continue against the Abu Sayyaf.
“I condemn these atrocities that are meant to put pressure on the peace process - to derail our efforts to counteract the causes of banditry, rebellion, and terrorism. Let me be very clear: those who want neither peace nor progress are the ones who perpetrated this dastardly act. Mark my words: to those of you, who perpetrated this atrocity, know that you are now number one on my radar. It might take some time, but make no mistake about it: you will be brought to justice to answer for your crimes.”
“I will be letting them know that pursuit operations will go on, and we will not stop until all those involved are captured,” he said on Saturday.
There were no reports of fresh fighting, but the military said it would cut major offensive beginning on Sunday – the first day of the Muslim fasting month – however, law enforcement operations – a military slang for small combat mission - would still continue without let-up, said Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, who visited troops on the island on Saturday.
“There will be no major offensive against the Abu Sayyaf because of the Ramadan, but our law enforcement operations will continue in Sulu,” he told the the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)