ZAMBOANGA CITY – Seven alleged Abu Sayyaf militants were killed and 17 soldiers and six Islamists wounded in fierce clashes in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, officials said Saturday.
Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said troops clashed Friday afternoon with some 100 militants under Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron and Hajan Sawadjaan in Bakong village in Patikul town.
He said Sawadjaan was among those wounded in the fighting. “Based on the report of Joint Task Force Sulu headed by Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, seven ASG members were killed, based on body count; and six others were wounded, including Sawadjaan, who was seriously hit in his stomach and lower extremities,” Besana said.
But there was a report in Sulu that those killed by soldiers were all civilians. A post on Facebook by Mahmur Arula (https://www.facebook.com/mahmur.arula/posts/2186590784957281) showed photos of those slain with their families grieving while villagers looked on. (See video)
Besana said the fighting stopped after militants – whose leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS – broke into smaller groups and fled. He said the wounded soldiers were brought to a military base in the capital town of Jolo. “Seventeen soldiers were slightly wounded during the encounter due to shrapnel (caused by explosions),” he said, adding, there could be more enemy casualties, citing intelligence report.
“Cadavers of the slain ASG members were also brought to the said hospital for forensic examination and proper disposition,” Besana added.
Soldiers also recovered an M16 automatic rifle and magazines and ammunition, including a bandolier and a cell phone left behind by militants.
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said more soldiers were sent to the area to hunt down the militant. He also praised the troops for the killings of militants. “I commend the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu for this recent accomplishment. All sorts of assistance will be provided to the battle casualties and our prayers are with them for their speedy recovery,” he said.
The Abu Sayyaf is fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the troubled, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)