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The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday said at least 36 Abu Sayyaf Group rebels were killed since January amid ongoing military operations against various armed groups in Mindanao.
At a press briefing, newly-appointed AFP spokesperson Brig Gen. Joselito Kakilala said 78 rebels were also wounded, and 18 high-powered firearms were recovered.
"With the current developments, we are gaining grounds in our fight against lawlessness and terrorism," he said.
AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang was earlier quoted as saying he expected the Army to finish off the threat posed by various armed groups in Mindanao in a few months.
Catapang said these groups include the ASG and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which is currently the target of the AFP's all-out offensive in Maguindanao.
For his part, Kakilala said the military is confident that they would be able to meet the expectations of Catapang in the operation against the various armed groups.
He noted that AFP 6th ID Commander Maj Gen Edmundo Pangilinan, tasked to oversee the offensive against the BIFF in Maguindanao, and other officers, are"seasoned combat officers."
"Kaya nina Gen. Pangilinan 'yon," he added.
Meanwhile, Kakilala said the military is more determined to seek justice against lawless armed groups, specifically the ASG, after three soldiers died in a bomb explosion on Wednesday.
Kakilala identified the killed soldiers as Lt. Emerson Semera, Lt. James Magbanua and Sgt. James Daez, who were killed following an ambush in Patikul town in Sulu on Wednesday afternoon.
At the time, the soldiers were en route to their battalion headquarters from Sitio Datag in Barangay Panglayahan.
When they approached Sitio Wani in Barangay Pansul, a vehicle in their convoy was damaged by an explosion of an improvised explosive device.
Several armed men then ambushed the soldiers and started a firefight that lasted nearly 30 minutes before the men withdrew.
"Rest in peace for pursuing criminals, we are seeking justice for the ASG violence," Kakilala said. — ELR, GMA News