(UPDATED) - Three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and a soldier were killed in separate clashes between the terrorist group and government troops in Sulu, the military said Thursday, July 12.
Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the three ASG members were killed in a clash at around 4:30 a.m. Thursday in Kuppong village, Indanan town.
The soldier was killed in a clash that took place at 1:55 p.m. Wednesday in Sitio Kan Apo Aluk in Panglayahan village, Patikul town. Ten other soldiers were wounded.
Pabayo said the clash in Indanan ensued when troops from the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion conducted a combat-strike operation after they received reports about the presence of the ASG bandits in Kuppong village.
The task force commander said the firefight lasted for about two minutes before the bandits fled in different directions.
The troops recovered the remains of one of the three slain ASG bandits, who was identified as Pakam Sakam Sappari alias Last Pangit.
Also recovered was a caliber .45 pistol with four live ammunition.
Pabayo said Sappari was a skilled sea navigator and had served with various ASG sub-groups in Sulu, the latest of which was the group of the late ASG sub-leader Alden Bagade.
“He was reportedly involved in several kidnapping activities,” Pabayo added.
He said the bodies of the two other slain bandits were dragged by their comrades as they fled.
In Patikul, the troops were on focused military operations when they clashed with around 60 ASG gunmen led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, one of the bandit sub-leaders in Sulu, according to Pabayo.
Pabayo said the sporadic firefight lasted for about two hours. He did not identify the slain soldier and wounded soldiers, except that they are from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion.
“We believe that a number of bandits were wounded and probably could have died due to loss of blood after yesterday’s encounter,” Pabayo said.
Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Arnel dela Vega said reinforcement troops were already deployed in the area to pursue the Abu Sayyaf terrorists involved in the clash.
“We recognize the commitment of our troops to thwart lawlessness, to the point of sacrificing even their lives. This incident gives us more resolve to further intensify our operations against the bandits,” he said in a statement.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding hostage 10 people, including five foreigners--three Indonesians, one Dutch, one Vietnamese--and five Filipinos. (Bong Garcia with Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)