ZAMBOANGA CITY – Government troops clashed Friday with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern province of Sulu that left 23 casualties as security forces continue to battle the notorious jihadist group being linked with the Islamic State.
The fighting in Patikul town killed at least 6 militants and wounded 17 government soldiers, but there were no reports on the fate of kidnapped Malaysian and Indonesian sailors, and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad.
President Duterte ordered security forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf following Wednesday’s beheading of a Filipino hostage Patrick James Almodovar after his family failed to pay P1 million ransom.
Duterte said negotiators had paid P50 million ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf for the safe release of Sekkingstad, but the militants demanded P250 million more. He did not say where the ransom came from.
The Western Mindanao Command said among those killed in the fighting was Mohammad Said, alias Amah Maas who was an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader tagged by the military as involved in the beheading of 2 Canadian hostages – John Ridsdel and Robert Hall – just this year.
Ridsdel and Hall, along with Sekkingstad and Filipino woman Maritess Flor, were kidnapped in September 2015 on a posh resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte province. Flor was released by the Abu Sayyaf in June this year following a successful negotiation by former Sulu Governor Sakur Tan and peace adviser Jesus Dureza who were tapped by Duterte to secure the woman.
“Among those killed was Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Mohammad Said, who has five standing warrants of arrest for murder. Subject was involved in the abductions of the Samal kidnap victims where two Canadians were beheaded,” the military said in a statement.
It said operations continue in Sulu and even in Basilan and both provinces are under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. “Troops continue to conduct pursuit and are currently engaged in a running gun battle,” it added.
“Our troops are extremely motivated; they know that this fight against terrorism is greater than themselves. Sa totoo lang, 17 ang sugatan natin pero 10 dun ay slightly wounded lang, nagpaiwan sila para sumama uli sa operation at ipagpatuloy ang laban.”
“Ganyan katindi ang pagtingin namin sa misyon na ito lalo na sa utos ng ating Commander-in- Chief. He gave a specific order. The mission is clear. Seek and destroy the ASG. By all means that’s what we are doing and we will not stop until it’s done,” Lieutenant General Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said in the same statement. (Mindanao Examiner)
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