Philippine troops have killed at least 40 Abu Sayyaf terrorists and wounded another 25 in two separate battles on the islands of Basilan and Jolo.
Military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said that 22 militants had been killed on the island of Jolo, while the neighbouring island of Basilan saw 18 Abu Sayyaf bandits taken down.
Reports from the military also show that at least nine terrorists had been wounded in Basilan, while 16 were wounded in Jolo.
President Duterte has previously warned Abu Sayyaf to cease their kidnappings. He previously told the group on several occasions that he would confront them if they did not stop.
Last week a series of “shock and awe” manoeuvres began after previous attempts to save several hostages ended in their beheading.
Abu Sayyaf has announced its allegiance with the so-called Islamic State and declared it would raise the group’s black flag above Sulu for all the world to see.
The uphill battle to take out Abu Sayyaf has cost the lives of many in the past six months. In April alone at least 19 Philippine soldiers were killed following an attack by the terror group.
Today the group is said to hold at least 14 hostages, a Dutchman, a Norwegian, five Filipinos, and seven Indonesians.
Prior to their allegiance with IS, Abu Sayyaf group held a loose relationship with the terrorist organisation. Their highly profitable kidnap-for-hire schemes included splinter groups throughout Mindanao and has created tens of millions of dollars in paid ransoms for the rebel organisation.
That money has fuelled their kidnapping and made them stronger as the money was used to purchase high-end automatic weapons, high-speed torpedo boats, as well as hi-tech navigational equipment to allowed to attacks day and night.
The attack on Samal Island was a perfect example of the Abu Sayyaf’s reach when a group of terrorists not directly associated with Abu Sayyaf took four hostages from Oceanview Marina. Only one remains of those four, Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian. Both John Ridsdel and Robert Hall were beheaded. Filipina Marites Flor was freed from captivity through negotiations directly linked to President Duterte.
Duterte’s cabinet originally said that Abu Sayyaf were top priority for the incoming president when he was attempting to win the office. However, last week during a Muslim celebration in Davao City, Duterte said that Abu Sayyaf were not criminals, that they were “put up against the wall” before becoming radicalised.