Eight Abu Sayyaf members were either killed or injured while 13 soldiers were hurt when government troops battled a large number of bandits in Patikul, Sulu, on Friday, the military said.
The clash in Brgy. Buhanginan erupted around 11:50 a.m. and lasted for about an hour an a half, said Ensign Chester Ian Ramos, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi).
Eight “casualties” were monitored among the Abu Sayyaf while 13 soldiers were hurt, Ramos said in a text message.
In Manila, reports quoted AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc as saying that the eight Abu Sayyaf members were killed.
A Sulu-based military official, however, said it was not yet confirmed if the eight were indeed killed.
“May walo sa kalaban, hindi lang namin ma-validate pa kung patay pero walo ‘yun na dinala sa Sitio Kantitap, Brgy. Danag,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Ramos, based in Zamboanga City, said field reports sent by the Joint Task Group Sulu, only indicated that the Abu Sayyaf casualties were “dragged” by comrades to Sitio Kantitap.
“Hindi pa ma-ascertain kung ilan ang namatay,” Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the AFP Western Mindanao Command also based in Zamboanga, said.
Members of the 35th Infantry Battalion encountered the group of Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, the Sulu-based source said.
Troops clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by Sahiron, Hairullah Asbang, and Amlon Abtahi, according to a separate military report reaching Camp Aguinaldo.
Soldiers fired 105-millimeter Howitzer cannons while Air Force helicopter gunships were also used to support the ground troops, according to the report.
Most of the injured soldiers only suffered slight wounds and have been taken to the military camp in Jolo, the Sulu-based official said.
Members of the 35th IB, 32nd IB, and 1st Scout Ranger Battalion were conducting pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf as of Friday evening.
The fighting occurred just a day after two Abu Sayyaf members were killed and three more were wounded in a clash with members of the 32nd IB on Thursday.
A nephew of Sahiron was among those who died in that clash, which also resulted in the recovery of several high-powered firearms, the source said.
“Kahapon namatay ‘yung pamangkin niya (Sahiron) so nag-consolidate sila. Nag-pursuit naman kami tapos na-engage uli sila,” the source added. (John Roson)
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