MANILA, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an extremist group in the southern Philippines, continues to hold 10 hostages, including a Dutchman and three Indonesians, a Philippine Army general said on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the commander of the military's Joint Task Force, said that the hostages also include six Filipinos.
He said there is an estimated 300 to 400 Abu Sayyaf terrorists operating in the Western Mindanao region, especially in Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi provinces in the Sulu Archipelago.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has directed government forces to "sustain" its offensive to defeat the ASG, which is notorious for conducting bombings, shootings, beheadings, assassinations and kidnappings, according to Sobejana.
He said Duterte gave the order during a visit in Patikul town in Sulu on Monday.
During Duterte's visit, the military presented 76 Abu Sayyaf members who surrendered to the government. The former ASG fighters reportedly turned in 700 firearms.
"As of now, our operational tempo is okay. We just have to sustain it," said Sobejana, adding that the end of the Abu Sayyaf is imminent.
"Actually, it's (Abu Sayyaf) nearing its end," Sobejana said, adding that the military's priority is to rescue the kidnapped victims so that the operations won't be restricted.
"At present, our operations are calculated because of the presence of the kidnapped victims. The freedom of the kidnapped victims is our priority," Sobejana said.
Authorities said the ASG wants to establish an Islamic State in the Philippines, and ultimately, an Islamic caliphate across Southeast Asia.
The ASG helped the Maute Group in attacking Marawi City in May last year that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people. The fighting that lasted five months ruined the Philippines' only Islamic city.