MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday lauded the military's Western Mindanao Command for an operation that killed 7 members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in Sulu Sea last week.
The 7 bandits were on their way to "conduct a kidnapping operation in Surigao province" and on board a speedboat when they traded gunfire with soldiers and were killed, said Duterte in a speech aired Tuesday.
"As your Commander-in-Chief, I commend and salute you for your gallantry, your vigilance and commitment in defeating these terrorists, and ensuring the safety and security of our nation, which is really, truly inspiring," said the President.
"To the valiant troops we are honoring today, please accept my love for you and your family. And you have just earned the respect of a grateful nation," he added.
Watch more in iWantTFC Courtesy of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office
The slain extremists reportedly belonged to the command of Abu Sayyaf leaders Mundi Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron.
The military earlier identified Sawadjaan as the mastermind of the Aug. 24 twin bombings in Jolo town that killed 17 people, including two suspected suicide bombers, and injured over 70 others.
Among those also killed Tuesday was Sawadjaan’s brother, Madsmar, according to a military statement.
Last week's sea gunfight against the Abu Sayyaf raged for about 25 minutes and sank the extremists' boat, the military earlier said.
"We need to beef up our security," Duterte told troops. "Magpakatatag kayo (be strong), do not worry. Your job is to secure the nation, make it peaceful."
A tougher anti-terror law that allows the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days without charge took affect last July.