Sunday, 19 August 2012 00:00
The Army’s elite 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion Ranger battalion had been deployed to Basilan Tuesday, bringing the number of government troops involved in the intensified campaign against the Abu Sayyaf to more than 2,000.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the Scout Rangers were previously assigned in the Bicol region against the New People’s Army.
The arrival of the 3rd SRB in Basilan brings the number of military battalions operating in the province to five. The four other units currently deployed in Basilan are the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, the 4th Special Forces Battalion, the 64th Infantry Battalion and, the 32nd Infantry Battalion. A battalion has around 500 officers and men.
Cabangbang said that apart from pursuing the Abu Sayyaf, the troops of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion will also help secure developmental projects in the province, including the Basilan Circumferential road project.
“We cannot neglect that because that’s a national project...Our priority is not only the Abu Sayyaf but also securing the development projects,” said Cabangbang.
He added that while the military’s estimates the Abu Sayyaf´s strength at around 70 men, “the problem there is the seeming interconnection of the different armed groups.”
The Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are alleged to have fought together against military forces. The most recent battle was in October last year when 19 Special Forces officers and men died in a fierce firefight in Al Barka town.
Government forces have renewed their intensified campaign against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists following a July 11 ambush in Sumisip town where five rubber plantation workers and a militiaman died and 20 others were wounded.
Fifteen days later, 10 soldiers, including eight Scout Ranger troops, died with 17 others injured in a series of fights with the Abu Sayyaf also in Sumisip town.
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