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ZAMBOANGA CITY – Eight government soldiers were wounded in an explosion after an Abu Sayyaf explosive they had recovered accidentally went off in Patikul town in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said Sunday.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the soldiers were rushed to a military hospital in the capital town of Jolo. He said the soldiers were gathering war materiel left behind by the Abu Sayyaf following heavy clashes in Patikul town on Saturday when the blast occurred.

“Numerous firearms and war materiel were also recovered including an improvised explosive device which accidentally exploded and resulted to the wounding of eight soldiers,” Besana said.

He said members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion led by Lt. Col. Samuel Yunque clashed with about 40 militants under Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Almujer Yaddah, Sonny Boy Sajirin Ellam Hasirin in Bangkal village.

The fighting, Besana said, lasted 30 minutes. “Troops were able to maneuver and take advantage and pushing the bandits to scamper to different directions after 30 minutes of firefight,” he said, adding, the clashes may have incurred casualties on the enemy side.

He said the soldiers, whose unit is part of the Joint Task Force-Sulu, have intensified their operations against the Abu Sayyaf. Besana, reading a report by task force commander, Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, quoted him as saying: “We have intensified our operations to pursue the fleeing bandits to prevent them from committing atrocities against the people.”

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said Joint Task Force Sulu continues to exhaust all efforts and means to contain the Abu Sayyaf and constrict its movement. “We are continuously intensifying the conduct of focused military operations, in coordination with the local governments and the people of Sulu, to neutralize the terrorist group,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)


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