9/20/11 Philippines (AsiaNews) – Without a leader and desperately needing funds, Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists continue to terrorise Mindanao, the Philippines’ predominantly Muslim autonomous region. Sources told AsiaNews that the group was planning to abduct nuns and men religious to destabilise the region.
In recent days, extremists placed three bombs near religious buildings in Cotabato, including the city’s cathedral, without causing casualties.
However, fearing more attacks, the authorities have placed the Bishop’s Residence and the Churches of the Rosary and Queen of Peace under tight surveillance.
Today, Filipino soldiers shot three militants during the rescue operation of Luisa Galvez, a businesswoman abducted on 4 September.
The risk areas are Cotabato, General Santos, Sulu, Lanao and Maguindanao, where thousands of residents have been forced to flee their village as a result of fighting between militants and army troops.
Despite President Aquino’s promises, the decades-old war between Islamic extremists and the Filipino army is far from over.
At the diplomatic level, talks between the government and the extremists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are deadlocked whilst rebels continued to refuse the president’s autonomy offer.
However, the MILF’s ranks have shrunk and many of its former commanders are working with the army to release hostages in the hands of Abu Sayyaf, the most dangerous terrorist group in the region.
In 2010, the group carried out 11 abductions earning US$ 5,000,000 in ransom money. It has close to 400 fighters, and remains without a central leader after several of its top commanders were killed or captured by troops in recent years. Its two biggest factions are based in Basilan and in nearby Sulu province.