Security forces in Sulu beefed up security measures as more Abu Sayyaf “casualties” are being reported after Friday’s clash in Patikul.

As of Saturday, the military received reports of 15 Abu Sayyaf “casualties” — nine of whom are believed to have been killed and six others seriously wounded — from Friday’s clash in Brgy. Buhanginan, a military official based in Sulu said.

Fellow bandits are reportedly trying to bring the nine towards Panglima Estino while six are monitored to be on their way to Jolo, said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

“‘Yung nine ang believed na fatal nila kasi ‘yun ang dinala papunta sa origin nitong grupo. Looban na ‘yun, wala silang makukuhang medical assistance doon, baka iuuwi na lang ang mga ito sa kamag-anak. ‘Yung mga dinala sa Jolo, ‘yun siguro ang mga ipapagamot nila,” the source said.

Members of the Marines, Army Special Forces, and the Light Armored Cavalry Troops have fanned out to Patikul and Talipao to intercept the casualties, while police were also asked to conduct checkpoints.

This is while elements of the Army’s 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions, along with members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, are conducting pursuit operations, the source said.

On Friday, members of the 35th IB clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, Hairullah Asbang, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, and Amlon Abtahi, according to a report reaching Camp Aguinaldo.

Soldiers fired 105-millimeter Howitzer cannons at the bandits’ position while Air Force helicopter gunships were also used to support the ground troops, according to the report.

Thirteen soldiers were hurt in the clash, which lasted for almost two hours.

All 13 were flown on helicopters to the military camp in Jolo for treatment. One of them was later flown to Zamboanga City because of serious injuries, the source said.

The fighting in Brgy. Buhanginan occurred just a day after two Abu Sayyaf members were killed and three more were wounded in a clash with the 32nd IB in Brgy. Taglibi, also in Patikul, 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.

Sahiron’s group “consolidated” with those of Abu Sayyaf sub-commanders following his nephew’s death, but they splintered again after Friday’s clash, the source added. (John Roson)

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