Abu Sayyaf has threatened government forces in the Philippines with direct attacks. The militant group said that it will not wait for armed forces to penetrate into their lairs to attack them, but would instead initiate attacks. Earlier, the Islamist group had warned that it was ready to face "soldiers of Duterte", referring to President Rodrigo Duterte, who has ordered complete annihilation of the Islamic State (Isis)-linked outfit.
A military offensive against the terrorists in the southern Philippine province of Sulu began on 26 August and has resulted in the death of more than 30 Abu Sayyaf fighters and 15 soldiers. Government forces have intensified their assault on the militants in the past two days and have deployed more troops in the area.
On Thursday (1 September), Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Alhabsi Misaya reportedly said that "by September 1, the Abu Sayyaf and soldiers of (President Rodrigo) Duterte will test each other in a liberation." He added that they will even rally local tribes to support its "jihad".
Misaya termed the ongoing clashes with government troops as "the last war of Patikul to the finish" and added that if the soldiers do not attack them, they would "initiate the attack against soldiers of Duterte", the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
"The Abu Sayyaf is ready with its more than 1000 forces, to do a jihad," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
Lieutenant General Mayoralgo dela Cruz, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command, confirmed seeing the text messages and said it would be better if they attacked as that would spare his troops the task of hunting them. "This message is part of their warfare, whether true or not, we have prepared for it," he said in response to the threats.
"I even suggest that they look for a place [where the battle would take place] so it will no longer be difficult for us to locate them," Dela Cruz added. He also doubted Misaya's claim of having 1,000 Abu Sayyaf fighters and said that there are only between 200 and 250 of them.
According to reports, the military has six battalions in Sulu to fight Abu Sayyaf and Dela Cruz said more war logistics have been sent to the island province.