MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines dispatched an estimated 1,000-plus extra soldiers to its troubled south on Sunday to strengthen security after Islamic militants threatened to kill one of two German hostages, the military said.
A military statement said an army brigade, a unit that usually comprises between 800 to 1,500 troops, was flown to the remote Sulu island group, where the Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding the two German tourists.
Two other army battalions meanwhile deployed in nearby southern areas, it added.
“This is a redeployment that is part of an ongoing plan which is anchored on our mandate to address internal and external security situations,” it said without elaborating.
The reinforcements will allow Philippine Marines who have been fighting the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu as well as on Basilan, another southern island, “to concentrate on their main tasks”, northern Philippines military spokesman Major Calixto Cadano told AFP.
He declined to disclose the exact number of troops sent to the south, citing operational security. One of the smaller units was flown to the south on Saturday, he added.
The statement said all three units that were sent to the south had come from the northern Philippines where security officials said a long-running communist insurgency has largely petered out.