FIVE suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while six soldiers were wounded in the latest firefight as operations continue in a bid to rescue the remaining 10 hostages in Sulu province.

Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the firefight took place at 2:31 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, in Panglahayan village, Patikul town.

The clash ensued as the troops of the Army’s 5th Scout Ranger Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Marlon Jomalesa chanced upon a group of 30 Abu Sayyaf bandits, who are followers of Radulan Sahiron.

Sahiron is the oldest among the Abu Sayyaf leaders in the province of Sulu.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the troops were cautious due to the possible presence of hostages although they managed to “creep in as close as 20 meters that is why they were able to fire at the enemy at close range.”

Sobejana said troops of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion reinforced the Scout Rangers that prompted the Abu Sayyaf bandits to flee.

The military official said the troops recovered from the clash site two caliber 5.56 M-16 rifles, including an Armalite the bandit may have abandoned when they fled.

He said the troops have received report that five Abu rebels were killed in the clash but the remains were dragged by their fleeing companions.

Four of the wounded soldiers were taken to Camp Baustista Station Hospital while the other two were airlifted to Zamboanga City.

The bandits are still holding 10 hostages that including three Indonesians, one Dutch, one Vietnamese, and five Filipinos. (SunStar Philippines)