Wednesday's firefight was the bloodiest battle involving the Abu Sayyaf in at least two years. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of US support to Filipino troops.
Insurgencies die hard.
That may be one lesson from a surprisingly lopsided firefight Wednesday from a group of separatists or bandits or Islamic militants (it depends on who you ask).
Filipino troops engaged in a bloody, hours-long battle with members of the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) militant group on Wednesday that claimed 55 lives, 23 of them Filipino soldiers. The general in charge of the operation on the southern of Basilan called the fight a "slugfest."
The BBC reports that the assault on the ASG encampment was apparently an attempt to capture two of the group's leaders, Khair Mundus and Furuji Indama.
Though this bloody encounter may seem obscure from an American perspective, there's a lesson in the surprising resilience of the Abu Sayyaf, which is classified as an Al Qaeda aligned terrorist group by the State Department but is seen by most scholars of the Philippines as a kidnap-for-ransom gang with a gloss of Islamist ideology. Though no US troops were reported involved in the latest firefight, a small contingent of US soldiers have been patrolling Basilan and working on hearts and minds operations with Filipino troops since 2002 – before the invasion of Iraq.
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