MANILA – The Philippine military on Monday seized known strongholds of Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan, following President Rodrigo Duterte's orders to crush the bandit group.
READ: Neutralizing Abu Sayyaf 'first priority' of Duterte
The military on Sunday seized strategic strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Barangay Baguindan Proper and at Hill 440 (Kawilan Hill). The terrain served to secure Abu Sayyaf's vital mobility and to intimidate nearby communities.
The following day, another stronghold located at Hill 355 in Barangay Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, was seized.
The military said the second camp has 10 bunkers that can house at least seven people; four tunnels that can be occupied by 20 people; and several foxholes that can be occupied by eight people.
Troops also seized two improvised explosive devices from the second camp.
The operations ''liberated'' the populace of Baguindan village in Tipo-Tipo and Bohe Piang in Al-Barka, the military said.
''The combined assault from the Special Forces, other elite counter terrorism units, and Light Armor Cavalry Troops, with support from massive artillery fires, forced the enemy to abandon their stronghold,'' the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command said in a statement.
''Utilizing the elite 12-man team to conduct mass base operations and harness popular support, the operators effectively earned the trust of the local populace to support ongoing military operations."
The military said there have since been reports that the Abu Sayyaf is now suffering from diminishing supplies.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred Islamic militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network that has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.
It is a radical offshoot of a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines that has claimed more than 100,000 lives. The main Muslim rebel groups do not generally engage in kidnappings-for-ransom. – with AFP