Bodies of 2 soldiers slain in latest clash with Sayyaf sent home to GenSan, CDO
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Draped with a Philippine flag, a white coffin was loaded into a Nomad plane bound for Tambler Airport in General Santos City early Sunday morning.
Hours later, another coffin was placed inside another aircraft bound for Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City.
Some personnel of the Philippine Air Force and top officials of the Western Mindanao Command, sent off the bodies of Private First Class Joey Blanche of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, and Gabby Aches of Misamis Oriental, in simple military’s funeral rites at the Edwin Andrews Air Base here.
Blanche and Aches were among the five soldiers killed in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu on Friday.
Privates First Class Alison Claro of Gamu, Isabela; Samuel Taluyan of Pangol, Tamdan Kalinga; and Albert Villaluna of Luban, Occidental Mindoro –
will be flown to Manila via a C130 military cargo aircraft on Monday, according to Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of Western Mindanao Command.
Guerrero declined to comment when asked about the reported beheading of one of the soldiers as earlier confirmed by Col. Allan Arrojado of the Joint Task Group Sulu.
Arrojado, in a separate interview, said his men did not die in vain.
“They fought hard. Our men fought hard for over five hours and we were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Abu Sayyaf fighters,” he said.
At least 28 other soldiers were wounded in the clash. Arrojado said 10 bandits were killed while 30 others were wounded in the five-hour fighting.
Guerrero, who visited Sulu on Saturday, told reporters that the government troops were engaged in “a very close and intense firefight, just about 10 to 20 meters from the enemies.”
He denied that their troops were ambushed.
“That was a deliberate AFP operation,” he said.
Although it was unusual for the bandits to engage the military in a long encounter, Guerrero said it could be that “they are protecting somebody at the back.”
“And we know they are protecting kidnap victims. What our troops hit then were the outer layer groups of (Abu Sayyaf leader) Radulan Sahiro,” he said.
The clash involved at least 300 Abu Sayyaf members. The military said Sahiron’s group merged with five other sub-groups.
Arrojado said despite the casualties, “more troops were sent to block the escape routes of the bandits.”
“We will continually pursue the bandits in their jungle hideouts,” he said.
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