3 soldiers dead in Sulu clash with Abu bandits
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Three soldiers were killed while 17 others were wounded in nearly two hours of fighting between government troops and about 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits in the village of Kabuntakas in Patikul, Sulu, on Saturday, the military said yesterday.
Those killed in the clash were members of the 35th Infantry Battalion.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the government forces clashed with the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed commander long wanted by the US and Philippine governments for his alleged role in kidnappings for ransom and other acts.
Tan said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen withdrew after the fierce clash on Saturday in the mountains of Patikul town and are being pursued by government troops.
An unspecified number of bandits were either wounded or killed in the latest flareup in a month-long offensive ordered by President Duterte. Tan said the bandits brought with them a number of casualties.
Tan said the troops were backed by assault aircraft and artillery fire.
The Abu Sayyaf, an offshoot of a decades-long Muslim rebellion in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s south, have survived numerous military offensives, partly thanks to money earned from kidnappings.
In neighboring Malaysia, security forces killed three Abu Sayyaf gunmen and captured two others in a failed kidnapping attempt off Sabah waters near Tawi-Tawi on Thursday. Two other militants were missing after their speedboat was hit by gunfire and sank.
Among those killed was Abraham Hamid, an Abu Sayyaf militant who, the military said, acted as a spotter in the kidnappings of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina in Mindanao last year. The two Canadians were beheaded and the other two hostages were freed reportedly in exchange for ransom.
Mr. Duterte and his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts have struggled to deal with a wave of attacks by the Abu Sayyaf and allied gunmen who target tugboats and cargo ships in the busy sea waterway.—AP, WITH A REPORT BY JULIE S. ALIPALA
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