Asia - Pacific

Philippines: 21 militants surrender in troubled south

Comes after troops overran Abu Sayyaf camps in Basilan after offensive killed around 45 militants, 16 soldiers last month

Ekip   | 22.09.2016
Philippines: 21 militants surrender in troubled south

Zamboanga

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines

The Philippines military announced Thursday the surrender of 21 members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group in a troubled southern island province where troops have been engaged in an offensive ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Col. Thomas Cirilo Donato, 104th Sultan Brigade commander, said in a statement that the 21 men surrendered and handed over their firearms in Sumisip town in Basilan.

“The ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] members realized that fighting the government and enduring hard life in the mountains is a lost cause,” he said.

Last month, security forces overran two Abu Sayyaf fortified camps in the neighboring town of Tipo-Tipo after a weeks-long offensive that left at least 45 militants and 16 soldiers dead.

According to Donato, the 21 who surrendered Thursday turned in assorted high-powered firearms including three M-16 Armalite rifles, one caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle, one M-79 grenade launcher and one caliber .45 pistol.

He said they will be endorsed to the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, “for rehabilitation and integration into the mainstream of our society”.

Earlier this month, the armed forces’ chief of staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya, asserted that Abu Sayyaf members have two options -- “either take the path of peace or suffer the consequences of their terroristic actions”.

Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and MNLF-breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front- that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release, and is believed to still be holding captive at least 10 foreigners and three Filipinos.

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