Newly installed chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay says that based on their current intelligence reports, eight suspected foreign international terrorists are hiding in the Philippines.
In the Congressional deliberations on the proposed 284 billion peso budget of the country’s armed forces, Gapay said that aside from these eight, there are 29 other suspected terrorists whom he described as “militias” operating in the country.
Gapay was quick to clarify that these terrorists are being monitored and are reportedly integrated into local terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group. The ASG is known as an international terrorist organization specifically by the United States.
The ASG currently operates in the Southern portion of the Philippines specifically in the islands of Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Notorious for kidnapping foreigners for ransom, the ASG has targeted not just Southeast Asian nationals, but Westerners, among them Americans.
In early 2000, the ASG reportedly beheaded an American hostage after failed negotiations with the Estrada administration.
Current Philippine president Rodrigo Roa Duterte once praised the Abu Sayyaf and even went to the extent of opening up the possibility of negotiations with them. After several public outcries, Duterte withdrew his plan.
He has since vowed to exterminate the Abu Sayyaf. Like his predecessors, four years in office, and the ASG remains a formidable force in the South.
The AFP blames them for the recent bombing of a public market that killed 16 and wounded scores of others.