6,000 Philippine Troops Hunting 3 Most-Wanted Terrorists
At least 6,000 government troops are now involved in the ongoing offensive against three most- wanted terrorists in Sulu, Philippine military chief Hermogenes Esperon said. Esperon told reporters that "chances are good" that the group of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjani and his two Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) cohorts would be neutralized in the ongoing operations. Before the offensive "Operation Plan Ultimatum" began on Aug. 1, there were only three Marine and two Army battalions in Sulu province, one of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf followers, Esperon said. When the operations started, Esperon said the military injected to Sulu six Scout Ranger companies, one Special Forces battalion, two Marine battalions and a Force Reconnaissance Company, an elite unit under the Marines."That would translate to about 6,000 troops now," said Esperon when asked exactly how many troops are involved in the operations. About two weeks ago, reports said that Janjlani has fled from the military besiege to nearby Basilan island. But Esperon did not comment on the reports. The military said earlier that at least 30 to 80 terrorists killed or died from wounds so far in the clash, but not a single body of them had been recovered. The Abu Sayyaf is the local extremist group responsible for a few high-profile terror attacks in the Philippines, while the JI are identified as the mastermind of 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia that left at least 200 people dead.