Although Islamic terror group Abu Sayyaf is down to only a few hundred active members, several thousand troops and police dedicated to the groups elimination, have been unable to destroy the organization. For one thing, the Islamic radicals are on their home ground in Sulu, Basilan and Jolo islands, with local ties and the ability to avoid constant patrols, and rewards for information. So far this year, clashes have led to over a hundred Abu Sayyaf getting captured or killed. The security forces have lost 48 men (compared to about 70 Abu Sayyaf). Despite nearly a decade of activity, it's only recently that the government (via a judicial procedure) attempted to have Abu Sayyaf declared a terrorist organization. This makes it easier for the police to gather evidence and prosecute suspects.
Meanwhile, the government has armed and organized two thousand villagers on Sulu island, as village militia, so that Abu Sayyaf cannot come in a demand aid (food, information, money and so on). Abu Sayyaf is, basically, a terrorist organization, even to Moslem civilians. Many of these civilians resent the presence of the Islamic terrorists. But the bad guys are not put off by the militias, and go after the militiamen when they are off duty, trying to kill or kidnap them. Nevertheless, the presence of the militia does restrict Abu Sayyaf operations.
Police in Basilan charged three known Abu Sayyaf members with kidnapping five men (two business owners and three employees). Abu Sayyaf is increasingly dependent on kidnapping to raise cash to keep itself going. Abu Sayyaf began as a MILF offshoot, which talked Islamic extremism, but mainly kidnapped and robbed people. MILF has disowned Abu Sayyaf, although many MILF members are jealous of Abu Sayyafs reputation (as Islamic radical bad boys), and sometimes success at high-ransom kidnapping. But during the last few years, Abu Sayyaf life has been less glamorous, and less successful. Hunted by a large force of police and troops, Abu Sayyaf has taken lots of casualties, and very few ransoms. It's not so glamorous anymore.
November 16, 2009: Over the weekend, several clashes with NPA rebels in the south left one soldier and three rebels dead.
November 15, 2009: In Sulu, troops foiled an Abu Sayyaf attempt to bomb a bridge. In the last month, Abu Sayyaf has adopted the tactic of destroying key bridges on the island, to slow down military operations. The bridge attacks are a very unpopular move, since civilians use them most of the time, and are the ones most affected when a bridge is destroyed or damaged.
November 13, 2009: Police charged three MILF members in the kidnapping of a recently freed Irish priest.
November 12, 2009: The MILF turned over the Irish priest kidnapped a month ago. The Moslem rebels said they convinced the kidnappers to give up the priest (who had served poor Filipinos for decades) without ransom. It is believed that senior MILF were behind the kidnapping, hoping for a big payday. But it turned into a PR nightmare, and apparently the senior rebel leadership opted to just let the priest go, before searching police and soldiers found him.
November 10, 2009: On Jolo, Abu Sayyaf beheaded a school principal they had kidnapped three weeks ago. The Islamic terrorists had demanded a $56,000 ransom, which was not paid. The family couldn't afford it, and Abu Sayyaf expected the government to come up with the cash.
On the southern island of Tawi Tawi, police found a large supply (3,700 detonators, plus 87 meters of blasting cord) of bomb making materials. Last month, police sized six tons of illegal ammonium nitrate (a fertilizer used to make explosives). These illegal explosives are used for criminal and commercial uses, but have also been the principal tools of Islamic terrorists.
South of the capital, a mine destroyed a police vehicle, killing four cops. Nearby NPA rebels opened fire on survivors, but they fled, after more police showed up, and one of the rebels was killed.
November 7, 2009: Police believe MILF leaders are behind the kidnapping of an Irish priest four weeks ago, and the demand for two million dollars ransom. The MILF denies that their leadership is involved.