8 Abus, 1 soldier killed in Sulu clash

Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2015 - 9:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Eight members of terror group Abu Sayyaf were killed in an encounter with Army Rangers in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu yesterday.

One soldier was killed in the battle, which also left seven militants and four troopers wounded, Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said.

The latest casualty figure placed at 28 the number of militants killed by security forces in recent weeks when troops began closing in on an Abu Sayyaf camp in Al-Barka town in the neighboring province of Basilan.

Yesterday’s encounter erupted at around 4 p.m. in Barangay Buhanginan.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be holding two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina who were kidnapped from a marina in Davao in September. Rebels who identified themselves in an online video as belonging to the Abu Sayyaf demanded more than $60 million for the release of the three foreigners.

The group was also allegedly behind the beheading of a Malaysian hostage in Sulu.

Tan said the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion special operation task group under Lt. Col. Eugene Boquio was on patrol when it ran into a group of some 100 Abu Sayyaf militants under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Sitio Sangay.

Tan said the initial fighting resulted in the killing of eight militants and one soldier.

“Pursuit operation has been ongoing after the firefight ceased at dusk,” Tan said.

He said the operation was part of the relentless campaign to flush out the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

In mid-December, the military reported killing 15 terrorists near their hideout in Basilan as the soldiers were advancing toward the militants’ camp in Al-Barka.

The military also reported killing five militants in Sulu later in the month.

The number of dead Abu Sayyaf members was based on accounts from troops, but the bodies were not recovered because they were taken away by their comrades, he said.

In an earlier firefight, Tan said troops had to advance slowly because of snipers.

“If we become careless in our advance, we will have many fatalities,” he said, adding that the militants’ camp is in a mountainous area and cannot be easily reached by armored vehicles.

The four-decade conflict in the southern Philippines is one of the world’s bloodiest, with a death toll estimated to have surpassed 150,000. Efforts between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to cement a peace deal were restarted in June.

The Philippines and the United States have listed al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for kidnappings, beheadings, extortion and bomb attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf has been weakened but has survived more than a decade of US-backed offensives.

ABU ABU SAYYAF ACIRC AL-BARKA ARMY RANGERS BARANGAY BUHANGINAN BASILAN EUGENE BOQUIO FELIMON TAN JR. HATIB HAJAN SAWADJAAN SAYYAF
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