There are now about 50,000 refugees in the south (Mindanao island), as a result of continuing army operations against rogue MILF gunmen. Nearly 200,000 refugees have returned to the homes they fled late last year. The army is tearing up the MILF down south. Ten camps have been taken this month, and over 300 rebels killed, wounded or captured. The MILF itself is having a hard time controlling the growing number of rogue factions.
In the south, the marines are changing their tactics against Abu Sayyaf. Since last year, they have sought to keep Abu Sayyaf away from populated areas on Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi islands. No longer. The marines have been given command of all troops on those islands, and will pursue Abu Sayyaf relentlessly. It is believed that only about 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters are still out there, most of them on Jolo island.
June 20, 2009: On Jolo Island, marines caught up with about a hundred Abu Sayyaf rebels, and four of them were killed. But the rest escaped.
June 19, 2009: Down south, police arrested a senior member of the NPA, Felix Capalla. This is a big deal, because Capalla is one the main military commanders for the NPA.
June 18, 2009: Down south, a senior MILF leader, Tolni Salik, was cornered and killed. Salik was with one of the two rogue MILF factions that have been causing so much unrest down south for nearly a year. Elsewhere in the area, an MILF attack on an army base was repulsed, leaving seven rebels dead.
June 17, 2009: In the south, five soldiers were wounded when their patrol ran into fifteen communist NPA rebels, who fled. The troops captured some documents that the intel people felt were of great value.
June 15, 2009: Fighting in the south during the last ten days has left over a hundred MILF rebels dead, and resulted in the capture of large amounts of weapons and ammo, plus documents and computers. The troops took dozens of prisoners. Interrogations of these, plus examination of the documents, indicates that a growing number of mainline MILF gunmen are joining those following the two rogue leaders who began raiding Christian villages ten months ago.
June 12, 2009: On Mindanao, MILF fighters tried to recapture a camp they had lost to the army, but failed, losing ten dead and twenty wounded. On Jolo, a patrol ran into Abu Sayyaf gunmen, and the resulting battle left ten dead and twenty wounded, about 60 percent of them marines and police, who were ambushed.
June 10, 2009: In the south, police arrested Ansar Bernardino Venancio, who had been sought as a leader of the Indonesian Islamic terrorist groups Jemaah Islamiyah. The Indonesians began arriving in the Philippines six years ago, and many still remain. Support for the Indonesians caused a rift within the MILF, which contains a lot of more moderate Islamic nationalists. Eventually, the senior leadership began expelling the more radical MILF members, and it was these guys who continued to harbor the Indonesian terrorists. Venancio has a reputation as a bomb maker, and he has apparently been earning a living teaching MILF members how to make better bombs. Meanwhile, during a sweep on Jolo island, troops found an Abu Sayyaf camp, defended by 150 Abu Sayyaf. The subsequent battle left six rebels and two soldiers dead. But the camp was taken, and it was discovered that a meeting of Abu Sayyaf leaders had taken place there. In a separate incident, Abu Sayyaf leader Mubin Sakandal was also caught in the south.
June 8, 2009: In the south, the army captured two more MILF camps, killing eleven rebels in the process.