MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Eduardo Año confirmed Sunday, January 29, that they used fighter jets in airstrikes against terrorists in Butig, Lanao Del Sur on Thursday, January 25.
Año said the FA-50s were among the military aircraft deployed to drop bombs that are believed to have killed over a dozen terrorists in Butig, and seriously wounded Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon. (READ: Top Abu Sayyaf leader hurt in airstrike – defense chief)
It was an unconventional first combat mission for the newly acquired FA-50s from South Korea that were bought to defend the country's maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
He wouldn't elaborate on the mission of the FA-50s but he said they were found to be very "efficient." He said the military will continue using the fighter jets against the terrorists.
"Hindi lang pala pang-external ang FA-50 or pang-ceremonial. Magagamit din to sa ating internal security operations at magandang justification sa pagkaka-procure natin kasi very precise 'yan pagka-ginagamit natin," Año said.
(It turns out that the FA-50s are not only for external defense or for ceremonies. We can also use it for internal security operations and it's a good justification for its procurement. It is very precise.)
'Isnilon Hapilon could die'
Año said Hapilon's injury is serious and he could die from it, if he doesn't get a blood transfusion.
"Kailangan niya ang blood transfusion. Kapag hindi sya magkaroon ng proper medical treatment, baka mamatay siya. Bedridden siya e. Hindi sya makapaglakad na. He is in an improvised stretcher [and carried] by 4 members of Hapilon group," Año said.
(He needs blood transfusion. If he doesn't get proper medical treatment, he could die. He's bedridden. He can't walk. He is in an improvised stretcher and carried by 4 members of the Hapilon group.)
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claimed that foreign terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) made direct contact with Hapilon in December 2016 to instruct him to find a suitable area to establish a caliphate in the Philippines. (READ: ISIS makes direct contact with Abu Sayyaf, wants caliphate in PH)
The fresh offensive in Butig was launched after Hapilon was monitored moving from his base in Basilan island in southern Mindanao to join the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur in Central Mindanao.
Año said intelligence reports show that up to 15 terrorists belonging to the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group were killed in the surgical air strikes.
Ground operations are ongoing. Año said he expects firefights when the troops locate the fleeing terrorists. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com