BASILAN - A former mayor of a Basilan town said the number of Abu Sayyaf Group members in the province has been increasing in the past few months, as the terrorist group's recruitment of new members intensified.
Joel Maturan, fomer mayor of Ungkaya Pukan, said many of the Abu Sayyaf's new recruits in some municipalities are teenagers, most of whom are out of school, while some are separated from their parents.
The Abu Sayyaf, headed by Isnilon Hapilon and Radzmir Jannatul, offered money to the families of their newly recruited members, aside from a P15,000 monthly allowance, he said.
The terrorist group has allegedly been receiving financial support from an Islamist group in the Middle East.
Maturan also said he received unverified reports that 2 foreign terrorists have been helping the Abu Sayyaf in training new members.
The foreign nationals are allegedly a Malaysian and Indonesian.
Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of Joint Task Force Zambasulta, confirmed the recruitment campaign of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.
He said the terrorist group could be using money to lure teenagers in the province.
However, Yoma declined to comment about the alleged financial support that the Abu Sayyaf has been receiving from overseas.
He said they are still verifying these reports.
Meantime, the military operation against the Abu Sayyaf continues, with the Marine Batallion Landing Team 11 arriving in Basilan Wednesday.
The Marines are reinforcing Philippine Army forces deployed in the province.
Yoma said the Marines will secure the construction of the long-overdue Basilan Circumferential Road.