The Philippine military is one of the most poorly funded in the region. Source: Wikimedia
The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, called for the Abu Sayyaf militant group to be “destroyed” after its extremists beheaded an 18-year-old hostage.
Patrick Almodovar’s head was found wrapped in plastic on the island of Jolo Island 1,000km south of Manila.
Almodavar was abducted in mid-July in the town of Jolo and last week Abu Sayyaf released a video of him appealing for help.
His father, a court stenographer, had not paid his 1-million peso (US$22,000) ransom, Major Filemon Tan, army spokesman in Mindanao said.
Duterte said his campaign against Abu Sayyaf would be different from the previous administrations because it is “not just a campaign”.
“I’ll be harsh,” he said. “Not just a campaign. Go out and destroy them.”
Duterte said the group’s members were among “the enemies of the state” he wanted killed, ordering his troops: “Drug dealers, destroy them. Abu Sayyaf, destroy them. Period.”
“My orders to the police and to the armed forces against all enemies of the state, seek them out in their lairs, whatever, and destroy them,” Duterte added.
Thousands of reinforcements have been flown by military planes to Sulu and nearby Basilan to help force Abu Sayyaf from its jungle camps, Tan said.
Tan said ongoing operations against Abu Sayyaf meant additional troops had been pulled out from counter-insurgency duties in Luzon, the Visayas and in other areas of Mindanao.
“It’s been going on since the first of this month,” Tan told the media, adding their arrival was a big relief for the existing 5,000 troops based in Sulu and 2,500 in Basilan. He did not disclose the number of reinforcements.
“There is no delay in our ground forces operation against the Abu Sayyaf group. In fact, there is continued troop insertion on the ground,” Tan added.
He said the army’s chief of staff, General Ricardo Visaya, would fly to Sulu to oversee the operations.
Abu Sayyaf is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the US and the Philippines for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. It has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and claims to follow a jihadist ideology but observers say it is more akin to an organised crime network, kidnapping civilians for profit.
Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Canadian hostages in April and June after no ransom was received.
The militants are thought to be holding other hostages on Jolo, including five Malaysians, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Dutchman and several Filipinos.
Duterte warned that the group could be a source of recruitment for Islamic State within the unstable archipelago.