Two Coast Guard personnel abducted by the Abu Sayyaf escaped and have been found by government troops Thursday following a clash with the al Qaeda-linked group in Indanan, Sulu, the military said.

Soldiers found SN2 Gringo Villaruz in Brgy. Buanza around 7 a.m. and SN1 Rod Pagaling around 8:30 a.m., Captain Antonio Bulao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group-Sulu, said.

“Villaruz was able to escape from his captors at the height of firefight,” Bulao said in a text message.

Both Villaruz and Pagaling were not injured but have been taken to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital in Jolo for medical checks, he said.

The duo’s recovery came hours after troops battled about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by sub-commanders Yasser Igasan and Alhabsy Misaya in Brgy. Buanza.

Members of the Army’s elite Scout Rangers, backed by cannon fire, stormed a bandit lair in that barangay from 5:25 p.m. to 7 p.m. in an operation aimed at rescuing kidnap victims.

As much as 15 Abu Sayyaf men were reportedly killed in the clash though only five bodies have so far been recovered, according to a report from the task group.

Some of them were identified as Joy Juliyon, Arapat Bagadi, Majindi, Sarman Aidarud, Mandi, Arapat Hadjiri, Dunni Ammin, Salman Wahid, Majindi Kamlun, and Runni Said.

Abu Sayyaf members Abdel Dela Cruz, Sherwin Dela Cruz, Mawalil, Duni, Bidah, Lasis Jihili, and Kapatud Sarman were reportedly wounded.

Four members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion were slightly wounded, Bulao said.

They were identified as Pfcs. Elvin Bacalargio, Johnrie Melegrito, Johnzen Tagumpay, and Cpl. Earl Bompat.

Troops are still verifying information that Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alden Bagadi was killed in the clash and have confirmed that his cousin Arafat died, Bulao said.

Villaruz and Pagaling were abducted along with Brgy. Aliguay chairman Rodolfo Buligao in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, last May 4.

Abu Sayyaf members threatened to behead the three if the P1-million ransom demand for each of them was not given.

Buligao’s severed head and body were found at a road junction in Maimbung town August 11.

Nine kidnap victims, four of whom are foreigners, remain in the hands of Abu Sayyaf members in different parts of Sulu after Villaruz and Pagaling’s recovery, Bulao said.

Villaruz and Pagaling had been spotted with 200 bandits and four other captives, three of whom have foreign-sounding surnames, three days before the assault in Indanan, according to a military report.

The foreign captives who had been with Villaruz and Pagaling are Malaysian and Korean nationals, Bulao said.

“Troops are still scouring areas around the clash site, looking for the other captives,” he said. (John Roson)

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