MNLF backs 'all-out war' against Abu Sayyaf

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is ready to work with government troops in going after the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which recently beheaded two Canadian kidnap victims in Sulu.

“Definitely, we have to dismantle it,” said MNLF leader Abul Khayr Alonto late Sunday night when asked if they will support an “all-out war” against the terrorist group.

“We have to dismantle this ASG as they call it, this kidnap for ransom industry,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Davao City Sunday night, he said the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have committed to help president-elect Rodrigo Duterte “in the fight against these criminal elements.”

He said they are also willing to help in the rescue operations for ASG hostages.

“We will not want also to end up being just like vigilantes. I think it has to be coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police,” he said.

The ASG, a breakaway faction of the MNLF,  was formed early 1990s through the leadership of Abdurajak Janjalani, a charismatic religious native from Basilan. He purportedly met with Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin Laden before breaking away from the MNLF.

The group wants to establish an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

Despite its jihadist ideologies, the group is now seen to be more profit-driven with the rise of kidnap-for-ransom activities. Since 2007, ASG’s attacks have shifted from large-scale bombings to kidnapping activities.

In a span of three months, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages — John Ridsdel and Robert Hall — after the government of Canada refused to pay their ransom on two separate occasions.

Ridsdel and Hall were kidnapped on Samal Island late September last year with Filipina national Marites Flor and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad. Flor and Sekkingstad remain in captivity.

The armed forces have been conducting military operations in Sulu following Ridsdel's beheading last April. On May 24, government forces captured an ASG camp in Maimbung, Sulu after a 45-minute firefight.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesperson for the army's Western Mindanao Command said troops fought an unknown number of rebels under ASG leader Idang Susukan in Barangay Gulangan before the gunmen withdrew.

Tan said the encampment could accommodate about 200 people and had a water source. Soldiers recovered gun parts, personal belongings, and a Honda motorcycle at the camp, he added.

Incoming Armed Forces Chief Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya said on June 16 that declaring martial law in Sulu and Basilan may be an option for the next administration in dealing with these criminal activities.

"Nakita natin yung activities ng Abu Sayyaf have been going on for a long time already," Visaya said. "Nakikita natin doon lalo na sa Jolo na there is failure of governance. Yung declaration of martial law can be an option to bring order back in Jolo."

[Translation: We saw the activities of Abu Sayyaf have been going on for a long time already. We saw in Jolo that there is failure of governance. The declaration of martial law can be an option to bring back order in Jolo.]

CNN Philippine's Ina Andolong, Gerg Cahiles, and Eimor Santos conrtibuted to this report.