Troops, 60 Abu Sayyaf bandits clash in Sulu
By Teofilo Garcia, Jr
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Philippines News Agency) –One soldier died while 10 others were wounded in a fresh clash triggered by the continuing military operations aimed at rescuing hostages from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu, officials said Thursday.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the latest encounter took place in Sitio Kan Apo Aluk, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu at about 1:55 p.m. on Wednesday.
Pabayo said the troops were conducting an operation when they chanced upon 60 ASG gunmen led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, one of the bandits’ sub-leaders in the province.
He said the firefight raged sporadically and lasted for about two hours, resulting in the death of a soldier and the wounding of 10 others. The casualties on the bandits’ side could not immediately be determined, he added.
The identities of the slain and wounded soldiers have not been released, but Pabayo said they belong to the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo.
“We believe that a number of bandits were wounded and probably could have died due to loss of blood after yesterday’s encounter,” Pabayo said, adding that reinforcements were deployed to block all possible withdrawal routes as troops continued to scour the area.
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the lone casualty on the military’s side will only give the troops more resolve to further intensify offensives against the ASG.
“We recognize the commitment of our troops to thwart lawlessness, to the point of sacrificing even their lives,” dela Vega said.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding 10 people hostage, five of whom are foreigners. They comprise three Indonesians, one Dutch, one Vietnamese, and five Filipinos. (PNA)