Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Sumisip, Basilan ambushed and killed two Philippine Army soldiers on Saturday, according to the spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), Major Filemon Tan.
However, Maj. Tan refused to identify the names of the slain soldiers but said that one of them was a private from the 64th Infantry Battalion and the other one a private first class from the same battalion.
The Wesmincom spokesman added that the slain soldiers were on a logistics mission on their way back to the infantry battalion base while riding a motorcycle when the suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed and shot them to death in Barangay Tumahubong.
The bandits – who were also riding a motorcycle – fled towards Barangay Sapah Bulak while responding soldiers focused on retrieving their fallen comrades’ bodies.
The Abu Sayyaf group has an estimated 300 to 400 members mostly based in Sulu. Since its inception in 1991, the militant group has conducted kidnappings, assassinations, extortion and bombings as they fight to have an independent province of Islam in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the AFP is now planning to step up its operations against the terror group in order to neutralize it in a matter of months.
“Definitely, we will implement an operational plan that aims to eliminate the ASG problem in 6 months. Dito na magkakasubukan (This is where the real fight comes),” Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya promised.
The Abu Sayyaf group has less than a dozen hostages being held in Sulu. The group’s captives include Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor.
The bandits recently released a video showing their foreign hostages begging President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to rescue them as soon as possible before their scheduled beheading on June 13. The militant group is asking for P300 million each for the two foreign captives.