ZAMBOANGA CITY – Abu Sayyaf rebels, whose group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, clashed Friday with military forces that left over a dozen army soldiers wounded in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, officials said.
Officials said as many as 14 infantry soldiers were evacuated to hospital in the capital town of Jolo following the intense fighting that erupted in the village of Igasan in Patikul town. It was not immediately known if there were enemy casualties, but soldiers battled the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron.
Two other sub-leaders, Almuher Yadah and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, also reinforced Sahiron’s group, swelling the numbers of rebels fighting the soldiers to about 120. The Abu Sayyaf, armed with automatic weapons, grenade launchers and recoilless rifles, engaged the soldiers in fierce battle and only stopped after military aircrafts pounded the rebels’ positions in the village.
On Wednesday, the military said 5 rebels were killed and at least 11 soldiers wounded in clashes in neighboring town of Indanan. Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the fighting broke out in the remote mountain village of Bud Taran where troops – searching for other kidnapped victims – caught up with a band of Abu Sayyaf rebels and engaged them in running gun battle for 10 minutes.
She said security forces were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in the town where the 70-year old German sailor Jurgen Kantner was beheaded on February 26 after his family failed to pay P30 million ransom to the Abu Sayyaf.
Kantner was kidnapped while sailing in a yacht with his wife Sabine Merz, 56, when Abu Sayyaf gunmen intercepted them just several nautical miles from the southern province of Tawi-Tawi in the Muslim autonomous region. The woman was killed and naked when found by soldiers in the boat. A shotgun was also recovered near her body.
Major General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, ordered troops to intensify their operations against the Abu Sayyaf and to rescue over 2 dozen Asian sailors kidnapped by rebels off Sabah in Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi and Basilan provinces, all in the restive Muslim autonomous region to where Sulu also belongs. Galvez vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf in 6 months. (Mindanao Examiner)
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