Airstrikes in Sulu as troops mount 'all-out war' vs Abu Sayyaf


Posted at Jan 30 2019 08:52 AM

Airstrikes in Sulu as troops mount 'all-out war' vs Abu Sayyaf 1
Philippine Army members secure the area outside a church after a bombing attack in Jolo, Sulu province, Philippines January 27, 2019. Armed Forces Of The Philippines - Western Mindanao Command

MANILA -- Attack helicopters were deployed to Sulu for President Rodrigo Duterte's "all-out war" against the Abu Sayyaf, which was blamed for a deadly church bombing, the military said Wednesday.

An air strike was mounted in remote Patikul town Tuesday and authorities are awaiting feedback from troops on the ground, said Col. Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command.

"Iyun all-out war po natin versus the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, tuloy-tuloy po iyan," Besana told radio DZMM. "Ang kautusan po kasi ng ating Presidente, ay pulbusin talaga ang mga Abu Sayyaf.'

(Our all-war against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf is continuous. The order from the President is to pulverize the Abu Sayyaf.)

Two explosions went off during Sunday mass at the Jolo cathedral, leaving 21 people killed and 100 others hurt.

The Islamic State militant group has claimed credit for the Jolo bloodshed. The military said it was not discounting this, but said the Abu Sayyaf subgroup Ajang-Ajang was a suspect. 

The military released Tuesday surveillance footage showing an alias Kamah, the brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf leader, tinkering with a cellphone that could have been used to trigger the bombs that shattered pews and windows, and left bodies strewn inside the Jolo cathedral. 

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday suicide bombers were responsible for the blasts and that the perpetrators were a couple. 

Besana declined to comment on the conflicting statements, but said the military got its information from troops on the ground and the police. 

The military is hunting down Kamah after he escaped from a raid in Patikul on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

The Jolo bloodshed came a week after a majority of voters approved the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new region giving Muslims in the south more control over their own affairs. 

Sulu, which includes the remote island of Jolo, voted against creating the new region, but the province will still be part of the Bangsamoro because voters from the current autonomous region were in favor of it. 

Police said Tuesday that the bombing was a "clear act of terror" and had nothing to do with the plebiscite.