Tag Archive: anti-terrorism

The United States military has started downsizing its anti-terror task force in Mindanao and only 30 troops will remain, possibly by next year, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

“Hindi total pullout. May 30 personnel na maiiwan… by May 2015, subject to change,” the defense chief said in an interview via text message.

Gazmin was referring to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which is based in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City, also home of the AFP Western Mindanao Command.

According to Gazmin, the JSOTF-P has already reduced its personnel from 500 and now only has 200 members.

“‘Yung reason [for the downsizing] is because hindi naman talaga sila permanente,” the defense chief told reporters, adding that American troops greatly helped improve security in Mindanao.

“Nakita naman na sunud-sunod ‘yung huli natin sa mga Abu Sayyaf… malaki ang improvement,” he said.

Kurt Hoyer, U.S. Embassy spokesman, said the JSOTF-P’s success led American and Filipino security officials “to begin working on a transition plan where the JSOTF-P will no longer exist as a task force.”

He, however, said many of the JSOTF-P’s capabilities will remain under an “augmentation team” of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The U.S. started deploying JSOTF-P troops to Mindanao on January 28, 2002, a year after the deadly Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by the al Qaeda terror network in New York City and Washington D.C.

The deployments were in support of “efforts to counter the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah – terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda,” according to a U.S. Embassy fact sheet. (John Roson)

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Seven Marine troopers and four Abu Sayyaf members were killed while at least 19 other combatants were injured as government forces clashed with the bandit group in Patikul, Sulu, early Saturday, the military said.

Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the clash started around 6:30 a.m., while members of the Marines’ Force Reconnaissance Company were conducting operations in Brgy. Tugas.

“This is part of the ongoing tracking and pursuit operations in relation to the recent kidnapping of a Marine’s wife in Sulu,” Gregorio said in a text message.

There were many casualties because the troops were “ambushed,” a security official monitoring the situation said, on condition of anonymity.

Gregorio said the “close firefight” resulted in the death of seven soldiers and injuries to nine others.

On the Abu Sayyaf, 10 were wounded and four others, including one Kausar Sawadjaan and a certain commander Apong Idol, were killed, he said.

As of Saturday noon, soldiers and policemen were still conducting “follow through actions” against the Abu Sayyaf.

“The safety and well-being of the community is paramount consideration. Focused military operations will continue to be observed,” Gregorio said.

On May 18, suspected Abu Sayyaf members abducted Casilda Villarasa, wife of Marine Sgt. Faustino Villarasa, in front of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) in Jolo.

Villarasa, who works as a medical technologist at the IPHO, is believed to have been taken by her abductors to the jungles of Patikul. (John Roson)

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