Philippine Army launches artillery attacks on Abu Sayyaf lair in Sulu

Abu Sayyaf members have gathered for a meeting in Sulu province when Philippine Army launched artillery attacks

Militants kill 19 civilians in southern Philippines
Picture for representation Reuters

The Fire Artillery Unit of the Philippine Army launched attacks in the municipality of Patikul in Sulu province after reports of hundreds of heavily armed Abu Sayyaf members gathering for a meeting reached the military.

The continuous artillery attacks have displaced local residents in 15 villages and they sought shelter in evacuation centers evacuation centres established by the local government. There were around 10,000 civilians reported to have fled their homes since the artillery attacks started on Thursday.

Patikul Mayor Nasser Hayudini told journalists that he just called an emergency meeting together with the Army's Joint Task Force Sulu along with 30 village chieftains of Patikul to discuss measures on how to address fleeing residents as a result of the attacks.

The village chieftains agreed that they will assist the municipal government to bring the fleeing civilians to avoid getting trapped in the crossfire and move them to safer grounds.

Brig. General Cirilito Sobejana, the commanding officer of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the shelling of artillery bombs will also put pressure on the Abu Sayyaf leadership to release the remaining kidnapped victims.

Heavy artillery began on Thursday afternoon when the Philippine security forces identified the target, where Abu Sayyaf members reportedly gathered for the meeting. The military identified the community of Santo in the Village of Danag in Patikul municipality.

Military intelligence earlier reported that some Abu Sayyaf fighters were planning to march down in the capital of Jolo, Sulu province's business district.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has deployed 10,000 battle-trained soldiers in Sulu and Basilan, last year, as part of his government campaign to finish off the Abu Sayyaf, which is infamous for being one of the most notorious terrorist groups in Southeast Asia.