18 dead, 20 hurt in Basilan clashes

(The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Fighting still rages in Basilan as government forces step up assault operations to capture an Abu Sayyaf camp in Al-Barka town, Basilan.

Combined government forces clashed with around 60 to 80 Abu Sayyaf bandits on Sunday, leaving 18 dead and 20 wounded on both sides, the military reported.

The military said a company commander and two soldiers died in the clash.

Maj. Filemon (not Felimon as earlier reported) Tan, spokesman for the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command (Wescom), also said that as of yesterday, 13 soldiers and seven Abu Sayyaf members were wounded in the fighting.

Since Sunday the bandit group headed by Furuji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon has been engaging government troops in a series of clashes.

Tan said troops are now concentrating their efforts on dislodging the Abu Sayyaf bandits from their well-entrenched bunkers.

He added that fighting, which started in the lowlands, is now shifting to the Abu Sayyaf jungle lair, limiting the army’s armored vehicles from spearheading the assault.

Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, Wescom commander, has ordered to troops to push with an all-out assault.

No let-up

The military said there would be no let-up in operations against the Abu Sayyaf this Christmas season.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri said troops would be deployed by batches based on available forces, as one group after another would be given a Christmas break.

Iriberri visited wounded soldiers at Camp Navarro General Hospital at the Western Mindanao Command and gave medals to troops for their bravery and service to the country.

He condoled with families of the three soldiers killed in the encounters in Barangay Macalang, Al-Barka town, Basilan recently.

Fourteen soldiers were also wounded in encounters in Al-Barka and Patikul, Sulu. – Jaime Laude, Roel Pareño

ABU SAYYAF AL-BARKA AL-BARKA AND PATIKUL ARMED FORCES BARANGAY MACALANG BASILAN CAMP NAVARRO GENERAL HOSPITAL FURUJI INDAMA AND ISNILON HAPILON HERNANDO IRIBERRI JAIME LAUDE WESTERN MINDANAO COMMAND
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