The deaths of seven and wounding of 21 Marines in a firefight with the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu early yesterday morning is another sad chapter in the ongoing war to render inutile this bandit group that has wreaked havoc on the peace and order situation in Mindanao.
According to an Inquirer report, the Marines have been combing Patikul town in Zamboanga province for the bandits who recently kidnapped a Malaysian gecko trader and a visiting Indian national.
Though initial reports were sketchy, it was confirmed that the resulting clash claimed the lives of several officers and injured troops. It’s not clear whether any Abu bandit was injured or killed.
The fighting was so fierce that four helicopters and two Navy patrol boats had to be deployed to rescue the injured Marines. The death toll could be higher if one, or worse, several of them are unable to recover from injuries.
Yesterday’s clash resulted in probably the worst loss sustained by the military following the 2007 clash in Basilan in which the bandits beheaded and mutilated 14 soldiers.
The incident was one of many black marks in the sorry record of the Arroyo regime and triggered calls for the heads of the notorious bandit group, who continue to brazenly claim that their operations are aimed at promoting Moro independence—a claim that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had repudiated and distanced itself from.
The deaths of the soldiers may not be a big deal for those in Cebu, who live far away from the troubled regions of Mindanao.
Not so. Many traders travel between Cebu and Mindanao, and families with means in the south send their children to colleges and universities here, where it’s safer.
Engineer Virgilio Fernandez, a resident of barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, got a first hand taste of being kidnapped by the bandits.
The engineer, who suffered from a medical condition, had to endure several days of walking through rugged terrain before he managed to escape his captors while they were sleeping.
The ordeal left him several pounds lighter and badly shaken. He had to rely on the charity of strangers as only one or two Cebu officials like Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, bothered to help him in his hour of need.
For those who think the Abu Sayyaf menace is remote, Fernandez’s ordeal brings it closer to home.
Other Cebuanos working in Basilan and other parts of Mindanao are exposed to the risk of being kidnapped by the bandits any time.
Until the Abu Sayyaf is permanently crippled, they remain a danger to the safety and peace of mind of all Filipinos.
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