AFP to close in on remaining wounded ASG at large in Bohol

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Highlights

  • Remaining 7 Abu Sayyaf at large are wounded and running out of ammunition, intel says
  • ASG still have 300 members and 27 hostages, including seven Filipinos
  • Feelers say ASG leader Radillon Sajiron might surrender
  • Padilla says there was no failure of intelligence
  • Padilla assures that threat of ASG "won't escalate"

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has reason to believe their pursuit of the surviving members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Bohol may come to an end soon, its spokesperson disclosed Tuesday.

"The remaining members of the group that made landfall in Inabanga are still at large, but we are certain that they are only in a certain area," Brigadier General Restituto Padilla updated on CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Information is also trickling in that among them are wounded and that they're running out of food, and low on ammunition... It may be soon that we will be able to find and locate them, and arrest them, hopefully," he added.

Seven members of the terrorist group remain at large after a firefight broke out between the ASG and government forces in Inabanga, Bohol on April 11.

Related: Gov't forces pursuing at least 7 ASG members in Bohol

Among those being hunted is a certain Joselito Milloria, a local convert who likely acted as the group's "connection on the ground."

The ASG may have been in the Visayas to conduct kidnappings in the area, following pressure from continuous military operations, Padilla noted.

The terror group earns money for arms and other resources through kidnap-for-ransom schemes.

"Lately you have not been hearing of abductions in the high seas, particularly in the border areas of Indonesia, the Philippines, and the island of Sabah... Now they have been trying to do these abductions elsewhere," Padilla explained.

The encounter is the most recent in a series of fights with the ASG after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana vowed to stamp out the group for good by June this year.

Padilla said that so far the military is making good on this deadline.

"We're doing our best. Our troops on the ground are leaning forward," said Padilla. "We're hoping to meet that target... sometime June or start of July."

Padilla estimated that around 150 firearms had been recovered from the group, and pegged "just little over 300" members remained from their initial count of 500 when recent operations began.

He also said that the group still holds 27 hostages captive, seven of whom are Filipinos.

ASG leader might surrender

The local war against terror might also be working shown in a "trend" of surrenders, Padilla added.

"Last April 10, there were 11 in the island of Tawi-tawi who surrendered to Gen. [Custodio] Parcon," he announced. "Elsewhere, in Basilan, there are more. I think they number about 11 as well, and then a few in Jolo."

He said that added that a military general shared they are "getting feelers from [Radillon] Sajiron himself, who wants to surrender."

Padilla described Sajiron is one of the "pioneers" of ASG, and his name has been involved in many kidnappings and beheadings.

"Hopefully the feelers that we're getting are authentic, and they're really sincere," said Padilla. "Definitely once this happens, it will be a big blow to the organization."

No failure of intelligence

Padilla also disputes reports that a failure of intelligence paved the way for the group's landfall in Bohol, which is far from their base in Sulu.

"There was no failure of intelligence, and I'd like to emphasize that," said Padilla. "Because we knew where they were. We knew they were coming."

Just before the encounter in Bohol broke out, the United States issued a travel advisory to Bohol and Cebu, prompting concern that foreigners had known about the ASG's arrival first.

However, Padilla clarified that it was actually the AFP who informed them of the possible landfall of terrorists in the area.

Canada, Japan, South Korea, European countries, and Southeast Asian countries were among those in the network of nations who were kept in the loop about this possible movement. Padilla said it was this same network that alerted them to the presence of two ISIS members in Taguig on April 6.

Related: NBI presents alleged ISIS members nabbed in Taguig

It is up to each country's government to issue travel advisories, he added.

The Philippines opted not to issue and advisory because of certain "cause and effect factors," although Padilla maintained that a "beehive of activity" is set in motion once such information is received.

"We know that we have dealt with this threat decisively, and it won't escalate as people are trying to speculate," Padilla assured.