SULU – Fresh fighting between pro-ISIS militants and government troops erupted Friday in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, leaving at least 16 casualties on the military side.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command said soldiers from the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion engaged in ferocious battle with about 50 Abu Sayyaf gunmen under notorious commander Hajan Sawadjaan in Patikul town’s Latih village.
“Heavy firefight ensued which resulted in the wounding of 13 rangers and the deaths of 3 others, while casualties on the enemy side are yet to be determined. Firefight continues as of this report,” it said in a bulletin.
No other details were made available by the military, but security forces had been battling Abu Sayyaf militants in various towns in the province where the gunmen had been holding several hostages, mostly foreigners kidnapped for ransom off Sabah in Malaysia.
The last fighting came a day after a Malaysian hostage Jari bin Abdullah, 24, was shot during clashes between soldiers and militants on Simisa Island off Banguingui town about 5, 100 kilometers away from Patikul.
Marine soldiers recovered Abdullah and he was brought to a military base in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo, but his condition remains unknown. The Abu Sayyaf previously threatened to execute Abdullah along with two other Indonesian fishermen Heri Ardiansyah, 19, and Hariadin, 45, if their governments or employer fail to pay ransoms running into millions of pesos.
The militants are believed to be holding nearly a dozen captives, mostly foreigners. Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said authorities were working with their Philippine counterparts to secure the release of the hostages who were kidnapped at sea off Sandakan in Sabah on December 5, 2018. (Mindanao Examiner)
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