18 soldiers dead in 10-hr clash with ASG
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – At least 18 soldiers under the 44th Infantry Battalion were killed and nearly three dozen other government troops were wounded during a nearly 10-hours of heavy clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan on Saturday, a source privy to the incident said.
But the Western Mindanao Command was mum on the report and even prevented journalists from entering its headquarters here, including the media center.
The only official information that came out of the clash was made by Major Filemon Tan Jr., the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, earlier in the day. He reported 22 soldiers were wounded in action in the firefight that took place in Sitio Bayoko in Barangay Baguindan in Tipo-tipo town.
Tan said around 120 bandits believed to be Abu Sayyaf members “were encountered by the 44th IB on Saturday morning.”
But the source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to release such sensitive information, said a platoon and an officer were “wiped out in the encounter” that started 7 a.m. and ended past 5 p.m.
Four of the slain soldiers, he said, had been decapitated.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the regional the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said he also got reports of soldiers killed in the clash with the group of Isnilon Hapilon.
He said his ground sources were not certain though as to the number of slain soldiers.
He said Hapilon was also trying to bring in more gunmen from Sulu in anticipation of a more serious military operation in the aftermath of the bloody clash.
“Troops are blocking their entry, that is what I got from the ground,” he said.
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