2 Abu Sayyaf Group leaders, 6 members arrested in Sabah

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021   •   231

MANILA, Philippines — Two alleged sub-leaders and six members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were nabbed in Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna, Beaufort, Sabah, a military official said Monday.

In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said the joint operation that occurred around 3 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, was jointly conducted by troops from the AFP and the Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Southern Command (ESSCOM).

The military identified the arrested persons as Sansibar Bensio, and Mabar Binda, both sub-leaders of the Eastern Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group;

Muayyar Binda, a certain Sansis, and a certain Firdaus, who are all under Mabar Binda; Lugah Sanchez and Bonijar Samsula, both members under the late ASG sub-leader Juhurim Hussein (Patikul-based); and Alim Sukarno, a member under Sansibar Bensio.

According to Joint Task Force Sulu commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Bensio and Binda are both sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group/Kidnap-for-Ransom Group based on the eastern/second district of Sulu.

“They are involved in the series of armed confrontations with the military including the encounter on July 2011 at Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu wherein the late 2nd Lt. Michael Baladad of the Philippine Marines was beheaded,” Gonzales said.

The military said the two were also involved in the encounters at Bay Sunog, Bud Bawis Complex in February 2018 that resulted in the deaths of five ASG members;  Sitio Jatih, Bud Bawis Complex in December 2019 that resulted in the rescue of two Indonesian nationals and the death of the late ASG sub-leader Hairulla Abduraja; and the encounter at Bay Takas, Bud Bawis Complex in November 2020 that resulted in the deaths of ASG member Bensio Barahama and sub-leader Hatib Munap Binda.

“Bensio was also involved in the kidnapping of foreign nationals identified as Lorenzo Vinciguerra (Swiss National), Ewold Horn (Dutch National), Samiun Bin Maneu (Indonesian National), Maharudin Bin Lunani (Indonesian National), and Muhammad Farhan (Indonesian National),” the AFP-WestMinCom said.

The group also victimized several Filipinos, including Ronnie Sandagon, Jerel Pepito, Eddie Reubal, Marcial España, Arvin Sabaduquia, Rufino Bustillo, Joseph Bani, Hajan Terong, Joshua Bani, and Michelle Tolentino Panes.

Binda, on the other hand, was also involved in the kidnapping of the Indonesian nationals mentioned above.

According to 4th Marine Brigade Commander Col. Hernanie Songano, the now-apprehended group of ASG bandits fled to Sabah where they established an ASG cell after they were forced out of the province of Sulu due to focused military operations and civil-military cooperation.

“The intensified intelligence operations and the support of the community coupled with the constant coordination between the AFP and the ESSCOM contributed to the successful neutralization of the ASG sub-leaders and their cohorts. The arrest of these terrorists is a big blow to the ASG” Vinluan said.

“My congratulations to the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu and the ESSCOM for the aggressive measures taken to ensure that these terrorists will not be able to conduct horrendous activities anymore particularly off waters of Sabah” he added.

PH military receives P2.7M worth of IT, multimedia equipment from Australia

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said it has received Information Technology (IT) and multimedia equipment worth P2.7 million from the Australian government.

AFP chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana received the donation in a ceremony held at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, June 23.

“With these newly donated IT and multimedia equipment, the AFP will be able to amplify its capability of preventing and countering violent extremism, here in our country,” General Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement.

Among the donated equipment were high-tech computers, tablets, storage devices, smart TVs, cameras, and audio recording components.

The donation was under the mutually agreed Australia-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program.

Australian Defence Attaché Colonel Paul Joseph Barta said these equipment will help the AFP in its efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in the Philippines.

“The equipment will assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ office for the prevention and countering of violent extremism research to achieve its mission – by documenting and understanding the drivers of radicalization, effective strategies for prevention of violent extremism can be found,” Barta said.

Sobejana expressed gratitude to the Australian government and the Australian Defence Force for the donation.

“Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the Australian Government and the Australian Defence Force for their continued support to the AFP in the ongoing fight against terrorism. It is through these initiatives that our members become more empowered to fulfil their mandate to secure the state and protect the Filipino people,” he said.

With the new equipment, the AFP said access and exchange of information among military allies shall be made more available and secured.

It also assured it continues to strengthen its counter-terrorism capabilities within the cyberspace where access to available information is critical.

“We have already made great strides in enhancing our capabilities in the cyberspace environment. However, we do acknowledge that much is still needed,” Sobejana said.

“After the grueling Marawi siege in 2017 against the ISIS-Maute Group, and the lessons that we have to learn the hard way, the AFP is more than determined to prevent any incidents of the same nature from ever happening in the future,” he added.

PH military receives P183-M worth of new weapons, equipment from US

Robie de Guzman   •   June 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has received weapons and equipment amounting to $3.8 million, equivalent to P183 million from the US government.

In a statement, the US Embassy in the Philippines said on Tuesday that officials from the Joint United States Military Assistance Group-Philippines (JUSMAG-P) delivered the weapons and equipment to the AFP at the Clark Air Base.

The delivery, funded by both Philippine national funds and U.S. grant assistance, included nine M3P .50 caliber heavy machine guns, 10 mortar tubes, and other equipment.

This is intended to enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism and maritime security capabilities, the embassy said.

“The United States will continue to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capacity-building efforts through joint training and key military equipment transfers,” JUSMAG-Philippines Chief and Senior Defense Official to the Philippines Col. Stephen Ma said in a statement.

“Our mutual security collaboration remains a cornerstone of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.

The United States and the Philippines are commemorating the 70th year since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty, and this delivery continues the United States’ longstanding commitment to our Filipino allies, the embassy said.

Since 2015, the United States has provided more than Php48.6 billion ($1 billion) in security assistance to the Philippines, it added.

PH military to acquire more assets to beef up air defense capability

Robie de Guzman   •   June 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it is eyeing to acquire additional modern defense assets to build up the military’s air capability and competency.

 “We will pursue the acquisition of more modern assets such as the Multi-Role Fighters to beef-up our air defense capability. These shall boost the morale and welfare of our troops because after all, our personnel are our greatest and most valuable asset,” AFP chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana said during his official visit to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) at the 5th Fighter Wing headquarters in Basa Air Base, Pampanga.

Sobejana also reiterated to Air Force personnel the importance of their role in the overall accomplishment of the AFP mission.

“What should enter into our minds is the responsibility of being a soldier. We need that sense of patriotism and love for our country and our people. It is only in that way that we are able to do our best effort to protect our people and defend our territory,” he said.

During the visit, Sobejana also joined in the FA-50PH Tactical Capability Demonstration Flight.

“The experience that I have for the past 45 minutes up in the air on our Philippine Air Force’ FA-50PH made me feel the significance of our air assets in our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters and other terrorists groups that we are fighting against,” he said.

The PAF’s FA-50PH aircraft stationed in Basa Air Base are among air assets being utilized by the AFP in its joint air and ground operations against local terrorists and communist terrorists groups.

After the demonstration flight, the AFP chief was presented with the Mach 1+ Patch by Brigadier General Fabian Pedregosa, Wing Commander of the 5th Fighter Wing; the Mach Buster Certificate by Major General Connor Canlas, Commander of the Air Defense Command; and the FA-50PH Patch by Lieutenant General Allen Paredes, Commanding General of PAF.

The AFP said Sobejana has been visiting various military units, including major service commands, to check on the welfare of their personnel.

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