12 Sayyaf men killed, 5 soldiers hurt in Sulu clashes

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ZAMBOANGA CITY — Government troops killed 12 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits while five soldiers were wounded in four separate clashes as offensives against the ASG continue in the hinterlands of Sulu, military officials said Friday.

Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the first firefight broke out around 10:37 a.m. Thursday in Sitio Bud Taming, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu.

Besana said the 45-minute firefight erupted when the troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion encountered some 120 bandits led by ASG leader Radullan Sahiron and ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan while on a combat operation in Sitio Bud Taming, Barangay Panglayahan.

Besana said the second firefight broke out around 3:43 p.m. Thursday in Sitio Kan-Isnain, Barangay Kabbon Takas, Patikul, when the troops belonging to the Army’s 1st Scout Ranger Battalion engaged some 80 ASG bandits who are followers of Sawadjaan and Almujer Yadah.

He said the bandits scampered toward different directions as the troops outmaneuvered them.

The third firefight occurred around 5:13 p.m. Thursday involving the Army’s 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion and some 10 ASG bandits in Sitio Tambang, also in Barangay Kabbon Takas.

Besana said the ASG withdrew after two hours and 30 minutes, bringing along their casualties.

Besana said that while the military was on a pursuit operation against fleeing ASG members previously encountered by the troops, soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion engaged with another group of the ASG bandits, also in Sitio Tambang, Barangay Kabbon, on Thursday.

He said the troops gathered “reports from the ground” that 10 ASG bandits died while several others were wounded in the series of clashes.

Aside from the 10, Besana said the troops retrieved two remains of ASG bandits at the clash site in Barangay Kabbon Takas.

He said the troops have also recovered in the area a pair of Night Vision Goggles, 40 makeshift tents, 50 water containers, and five sacks of rice.

Besana said five wounded soldiers were taken hospital for medical attention.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the support and cooperation of the local community led to the successful conduct of operations and “that troops’ morale is also high due to the people’s continuous support”.

“I commend the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu for the recent accomplishments,” added Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Westmincom chief.

“The merging of the enemy groups from different sub-leaders only shows that we are gaining grounds and they are getting weaker,” dela Vega said. -PNA

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