In the south the military has shifted troops to Sulu island. This is based on intel reports that Abu Sayyaf has moved most of its hostages to a remote location there and has over a hundred gunmen guarding them. This is not unexpected. In late 2014 soldiers attacked a group of about 60 Abu Sayyaf fighters on nearby Jolo Island and found an Abu Sayyaf camp that was hidden inside a village. The locals were paid (or threatened) to provide assistance (and keep quiet). It was discovered that some of the dozen Filipino and foreign hostages held by Abu Sayyaf had been at this base for a time.
This year there has been a major effort to sharply reduce the size and capability of Abu Sayyaf and rescuing hostages is an important part of that. This comes after more than a decade of army and marine presence in Jolo and Sulu provinces. That was mainly due to Abu Sayyaf making millions of dollars by kidnapping foreigners soon after 2000. All that cash made them a much more powerful terrorist organization. But the increased military and police pressure in the south made it difficult to grab many more foreigners and the money from those lucrative crimes was soon gone and a new supply of cash was needed. This led to kidnapping locals (mainly non-Moslems, which was more acceptable to the Moslem majority population) and extortion (especially of businesses owned by non-Moslems). Thus Abu Sayyaf has become more of a bandit problem than a terrorist threat. Years of aggressive patrolling in the Moslem south by thousands of soldiers and marines have disrupted the group's ability organize and carry out attacks elsewhere in the country. The military concentrated on the islands where Abu Sayyaf initially came from. This is the Sulu Archipelago in the southwest, particularly the islands of Basilan, Jolo and Sulu. In this area the Islamic radicals still have lots of fans. But these terrorists are not folk heroes to everyone down there, mainly because Abu Sayyaf supports themselves via kidnapping, extortion and robbery and that disrupts the economy. Moreover a growing number of local Moslem civilians are victims of these crimes, or collateral damage. Abu Sayyaf is fading away because of all this, but slowly, because the region has always sustained a certain amount of banditry.
The Chinese threat remains although UN lawyers are telling those attending the annual UN meeting of world leaders that that Chinese case is weak and opposition widespread.
Saudi Arabia revealed that it had recently arrested a Filipino woman who was making suicide bomb vests. She was living illegally with a Syrian man who was apparently providing bombs for one or more terrorist organizations in the Saudi capital.
October 3, 2015: In the south (Zamboanga City) police arrested a wanted Abu Sayyaf kidnapper (Wajir Arijani) after a long investigation and increasingly successful search.
October 1, 2015: In the south (Basilan) an Abu Sayyaf roadside bomb attacked two vehicles carrying a local politicians, a police commander, bodyguards and other civilians. Three bodyguards and a civilian were killed and eleven others were wounded. The two apparent targets were unharmed.
September 30, 2015: In the south (Compostela Valley province) an NPA ambush left a soldier and a civilian dead. About a hundred kilometers to the north another group of NPA gunmen kidnapped two off-duty soldiers.
September 27, 2015: In the south (Bukidnon province) a clash with five armed NPA men left one of the communist rebels dead and two others wounded and captured.
September 25, 2015: MILF has agreed to proceed with the peace deal even if the legislature does not approve all aspects of the recently agreed upon autonomy package. There is a lot of popular opposition to the MILF autonomy deal in the south and even MILF seems to recognize that they will never have the votes in the legislature to get everything they want.
September 21, 2015: In the south (Samal Island) kidnappers took two Canadian guests and two hotel employees (a Norwegian and a Filipina) from a luxury resort and got past a naval blockade to the larger Mindanao island fifty kilometers away. Abu Sayyaf is believed responsible for this but no ransom demands have yet been made. The hostages are now believed to be on Sulu island, an Abu Sayyaf base area.
September 18, 2015: In the south (Zamboanga City) an Abu Sayyaf bomb went off in a bus terminal killing one and wounding 31. The terminal was hit because the owners of a bus company refused to pay protection money to Abu Sayyaf.
September 15, 2015: In the south (Basilan) troops rescued nine construction workers when their twenty armed Abu Sayyaf kidnappers abandoned their captives in order to escape several hundred troops who were closing in. The men had been kidnapped the day before.