15 dead as military, militants clash in Sulu
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2014 - 10:54am

MANILA, Philippines  — Officials say heavy clashes have broken out between Philippine troops and Muslim militants trying to regain control of their captured camp in southern Sulu province, leaving 14 Abu Sayyaf rebels and one marine dead.

Military spokesman Lt. Col Ramon Zagala said fighting that began late Tuesday continued until early morning Wednesday, with the militants attempting to regain control of an Abu Sayyaf training camp and storage facility in Patikul township that was captured by government troops.

Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, citing intelligence reports, says the fighting left 14 rebels dead, while one marine was killed and 19 wounded. The Abu Sayyaf had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaida, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group, which is on the U.S. list of terror groups, has about 300 fighters and is now much more focused on ransom kidnappings than global jihad.

Airstrike

The military launched air and ground artillery strikes against massing group of Abu Sayyaf following fierce encounter against the marines that left 15 killed.

Among the fatalities was a soldier. Seventeen troopers were also wounded in the jungle terrorist camp in Patikul town, Sulu province, according to security officials.

The fighting came more than 24 hours after marine forces initially dislodged the Abu Sayyaf group from its fortified camp at sitio Kanjimao, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul town, said Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, chief of the 2nd Marine Brigade and Joint Special Task Force Sulu.

The military official said the marines were clearing  the perimeter when they encountered at about 4 p.m. the Abu Sayyaf militants believed to be massing to retake the captured camp.

Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, spokesman of 2nd Marine Brigade, said the fierce gunbattle raged for three hours and the Abu Sayyaf group was massing its forces in an attempt to employ mob tactic against the ground forces.

The number of the Abu Sayyaf militants  that was massing was still undertermined, but ground forces said the militants were swelling.

Lacuesta said that owing to the massing of militants, the Philippine Air Force launched an airstrike using  MG-520 attack helicopters and heavy artillery bombardment from 105mm Howitzer and 81mm mortar provided by the marine support unit.

“The Abu Sayyaf group was massing and planning to stage the traditional ‘pintakasi’ (mob) but we immediately employed support for the ground troops and airstrike provided by the MG520 attack helicopters and ground artillery against the...Abu Sayyaf group,” Lacuesta said. 

“Reports on the ground confirmed that 14 Abu Sayyaf were killed and incurred massive number of wounded members,” Lacuesta said.

The Abu Sayyaf militants then broke into small factions and retreated to various directions.

The military confirmed a marine was killed while 17 others, including two officers, were wounded in the heavy fighting.

Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the wounded soldiers were immediately extricated from the battle zone and brought to the trauma hospital at Camp Teodulfo Bautista inside the headquarters of 2nd Marine Brigade at Barangay Busbus, Jolo town for initial treatment.

She said they are expecting the wounded soldiers to be flown out anytime from Jolo to the Camp Navarro General Hospital at Westmincom in this city for further treatment and recovery.

The security officials confirmed that  they are still pursuing the fleeing Abu Sayyaf members. - with Roel Pareño

 

ABU ABU SAYYAF BARANGAY BUHANGINAN CAPT LACUESTA MARINE MARINE BRIGADE PATIKUL RYAN LACUESTA SAYYAF
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