FIVE soldiers who were wounded in the latest clash with the Abu Sayyaf bandits have received medals for gallantry in action.
General Ricardo Visaya, Armed Forces chief-of-staff, personally pinned the medals when he visited them on Saturday at Camp Navarro General Hospital in this city.
Lieutenant General Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, assisted Visaya in the awarding of medals to the soldiers.
Awarded Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) were the following: Corporal Ian Dexter Gavina, Corporal Rambo Balnawi, Private First Class Radel Gumban, Private First Class Christian Naganag, and Private First Class Bernie Joe Nagoy.
They were wounded in an intense fighting against 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits led by one-armed leader Radulan Sahiron and sub-leader Hadjan Sawajaan last Thursday in Patikul, Sulu.
Intelligence report showed that nine Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while 13 wounded when the troops pounded them with artillery.
Visaya visited Westmincom to get first hand information of the ongoing focus military operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
"I am here now to see how Westmincom implemented our plans (against the ASG)," Visaya said, who met with key officers of Westmincom.
He said the troops were directed to ensure the safety of the hostages as they were ordered to continuously pursue the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captives nine foreigners and three Filipinos in the province of Sulu. The foreigners included a Dutchman birdwatcher, a Norwegian and seven Indonesian sailors.
Visaya said the focus military operation against the Abu Sayyaf bandits has no time frame.