5 Abu Sayyaf bandits, 2 soldiers killed in fresh fighting in Sulu
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Five Abu Sayyaf bandits and two soldiers were killed during a fresh fighting in Sulu on Wednesday, a military spokesperson, said.
Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) here, said nine soldiers and 14 Abu Sayyaf gunmen were also injured in the clash that was still taking place between the bandits on one hand and the elements of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and the 16th Special Forces Company in Barangay Tanum in Patikul town.
Muyuela said soldiers were conducting law enforcement operation in Barangay Tanum when they clashed with some 300 bandits led by Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan around 9:20 a.m.
“The firefight is still ongoing,” she said, adding that the operating troops have been provided the needed “air and ground support while the police established different blocking positions … against the fleeing bandits.”
Muyuela said the movement of Sawadjaan’s group was being checked because of the large number of gunmen involved.
“We are still trying to determine if Sawadjaan’s group is holding hostages since they have been moving in a big group,” she said.
Muyuela said that prior to the operation, “the military and the police coordinated with the local government to ensure no collateral damage among the civilian population and to address possible displacement of families.”
According to former kidnap victim Octavio Dinampo, Sawadjaan is the elder brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Asman Sawadjaan, who died of illness in 2014.
“This was the same group that took Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani,” Dinampo said.
Wednesday’s clash was the third such encounter in Sulu this month.
On February 5, as many as 15 Abu Sayyaf bandits were reportedly killed in clashes that also took place in Patikul. An Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, identified as Murasil, was killed then, according to reports gathered by the military.
The clash continued through February 6, in which 13 soldiers, including a junior officer, were injured.
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