ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Four government soldiers were hurt Tuesday in two encounters with al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island province of Basilan, the military reported.
The soldiers were conducting combat operations related to a raid in Barangay Tubigan in Maluso town last Saturday that left 12 civilians dead when the encounters took place, said First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) information officer.
The Abu Sayyaf group was the one responsible for Saturday’s raid, which also left at least 13 persons injured. Some of the wounded victims are still confined at Zamboanga City Medical Center, while the rest have already been discharged from a hospital in Basilan.
Of the four soldiers hurt in Tuesday’s encounters, three were members of the elite 4th Scout Ranger Company. They were wounded when a bomb, set up as a landmine, exploded around 7:40 a.m. in the village of Pamatsaken, Sumisip town.
Cacho said the troops were in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf bandits who are believed to have been hiding in the hinterlands of Sumisip when they tripped on the bomb.
Armed Forces' Wesmincom chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino identified the wounded soldiers as Private First Class Nelson Limao, Sergeant Erwin Gersata Sr., and Corporal Edwin Talaba.
The three were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital located inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Wesmincom headquarters in this city.
The fourth soldier, on the other hand, was hurt in another encounter that occurred some 30 minutes after the bomb explosion in Pamatsaken.
The incidents occurred just days after the military killed Albader Parad, an Abu Sayyaf commander, in an encounter in Sulu last February 21.
The military said it is bracing for more attacks from the bandits after the killing of one of their commanders.
Marine commandant Major General Juancho Saban said the government forces will achieve more breakthroughs with the killing of Parad, who led the group that held hostage members of International Committee of the Red Cross last year.
Saban said that as of Tuesday, the military is exerting all efforts to capture the remnants of Parad’s group and that pursuit operations are still ongoing.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is fighting to create an Islamic state in the predominantly Christian nation, has about 400 fighters. It is on the US list of terrorist organizations because of two decades of bomb attacks, kidnappings and attacks on civilians. (Bong Garcia/AP/Sunnex)