SIX soldiers were killed while four others were wounded as fresh fighting erupted against members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and lawless elements in Sumisip town, Basilan province, military officials disclosed Thursday.

Joint Task Force Basilan commander Colonel Juvymax Uy said the firefight happened as members of the 18th Infantry Battalion conducted an operation against ASG members under Siar Alhamsilor and Parong Tedi in Barangay Upper Cabengbeng, Sumisip at 12:41 p.m. on Wednesday.

He said amid the firefight, the bandits got reinforced by “lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf.”

The troops, on the other hand, were provided air support from the Air Force.

Uy said the encounter lasted four hours.

The remains of the slain soldiers were transported to Zamboanga City. Two of the remains were already claimed by the relatives.

The wounded soldiers were taken to the headquarters of the 64th Infantry Battalion. They were later transferred to Camp Navarro General Hospital and a private medical facility in Zamboanga City for further medical attention.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief, said they were saddened by the outcome of the operation but assured that combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group will be sustained and intensified. (SunStar Philippines)