At least nine Abu Sayyaf members were killed and about 20 were wounded when Marines clashed with the bandit group in Patikul, Sulu, on Sunday, a military official said Monday.

The fatalities included Sahiron Ajil and Ismin Sahiron, both relatives of Abu Sayyaf commander Radullan Sahiron, Col. Orlando de Leon, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu, told reporters via phone.

De Leon, however, said only local residents and officials reported the number of Abu Sayyaf casualties and no bodies were recovered.

“Wala tayong body count, dahil close-quarter battle, divided lang kami ng ilog… instead of recovering ‘yung body count ng kalaban, I have to evacuate also ‘yung casualty ko, ‘yun ang priority sa akin kaysa recovery of bodies,” he said.

He confirmed that four soldiers were killed and 13 were injured in the fighting.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the four slain soldiers’ remains arrived in Zamboanga City early Monday on a Navy vessel.

Six of 13 injured soldiers were brought to the Camp Navarro Station Hospital, also in Zamboanga City, for further treatment while the others remain at the Trauma Hospital in Jolo, he said.

Members of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team clashed with Abu Sayyaf members under Radullan Sahiron and followers of Tahil Sali in Brgy. Bakong around 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

The troops, numbering 80 to 90, were then verifying reports on the presence of kidnap victims, Cabangbang said.

“Noong una nakabangga nila (Marines) ‘yung tropa ni Radullan Sahiron, mga more or less 60 ‘yun, tapos nag-reinforce si Tahil Sali umabot ng mga more or less 100, umabot ng mga limang oras ‘yung fighting,” Cabangbang said in a phone interview.

On Sunday, Cabangbang said two armed men, one of whom was identified as a certain “Kaisar,” were also killed in the clash.

There was no reported fighting as of Monday morning but troops are still pursuing the bandits, Cabangbang said.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos told reporters that 1,000 soldiers are now “directly involved” in pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. (John Roson)

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