World Bulletin / News Desk
Government troops extended greetings to the country's Muslims on Sunday, as millions of people -- predominantly in the country's south -- prepared to commemorate Eid al-Adha.
There will be no let up, however, of an intensified military offensive against a ISIL-linked group in the southern provinces of Sulu and Basilan, where thousands of Muslims have been displaced.
The government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had called for a temporary ceasefire over Eid to enable those suffering to return home.
In a statement released Sunday, the armed forces said: "troops in Sulu greet all Muslims and Christians alike a Happy Eid al-Adha as Muslims around the world gather and celebrate".
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson for Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the message was one of solidarity, as a mass was to be celebrated Sunday during the blessing of a newly constructed hospital inside Camp Bautista in Jolo -- the primary island of the province of Sulu.
"The newly constructed station hospital is expected to enhance the survival of wounded troops and widen the medical care that can be given to soldiers and their families while stationed in Sulu," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to crush the ISIL-linked Abu Sayyaf, which has beheaded numerous hostages and claimed responsibility for a blast that killed 14 people in Davao City, where he previously served as mayor.
Since Aug. 26, an intensified military offensive has been taking place in Sulu and Basilan, and last week the navy deployed its largest vessel to the area to lead a blockade against the militants, in case they try and escape via sea.
Tan said that in the past two weeks around 18 soldiers have been killed and 28 wounded in the offensive, while 59 Abu Sayyaf are dead and scores have been wounded.
On Sunday, Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, called on soldiers in the Sulu archipelago to understand and respect the religion and culture of the Moro -- the Muslim population of the Philippines, who the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos claim make up around 11 percent of the total population.
"We extend our sincere desire for a peaceful Eid al-Adha and we again appeal to the people of Sulu for their continued cooperation to ensure the safety of all members of the community," dela Vega stated.
Earlier this week, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman called for a temporary ceasefire in the island provinces during the observance of Eid.
"Maybe we can ask, to temporarily suspend the military offensive to give way to our Muslim countrymen, who are affected by the trouble, to return to their places so that they can celebrate," Hataman said.
Hataman condemned groups such as the Abu Sayyaf -- which have pledged allegiance to ISIL -- as the “biggest traitors of Islam”.
“They are destroying the true meaning of Islam. They are the traitors of our faith. They are fake. It is not in our teaching to kill innocents and kidnap people for money," he stressed.
The number of displaced people in the two provinces has reached more than 20,000, most of whom are in Patikul where some of the fiercest fighting has been.
Duterte has declared Sept.12, 2016 a public holiday throughout the country in observance of Eid al-Adha
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Eylül 2016, 11:29