4 Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in Sulu clash
MANILA, Philippines – At least 4 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed in a battle with government forces on Saturday, December 7, in Sulu province, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
At around 1:40 pm on Saturday, troops from the Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion and 12th Reconnaissance Company encountered some 40 ASG bandits in Sitio Tambang, Barangay Kabbon Takas in Patikul municipality.
The bandits were from the ASG’s pro-Islamic State (ISIS) faction under sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the Westmincom said in its statement sent to reporters on Sunday, December 8. The ASG’s Sawadjaan faction is believed to be behind the series of suicide bombings in Basilan and Sulu from July 2018 to September 2019.
Saturday’s firefight lasted about 30 minutes, killing 4 ASG bandits and wounding several others. One Philippine Army soldier was killed, and 9 others were wounded.
Troops recovered the body of one of the slain bandits. Bloodstains and bits of human flesh spotted in the encounter site indicate more casualties among the ASG, said the commander of the Army’s 1101st Brigade, Brigadier General Antonio Nafarrete.
An M16 rifle and personal belongings of the fleeing bandits were also recovered from the site.
Sulu’s Tausug citizens have been “very active” in reporting the presence of the ASG’s members and their activities to the military, said Westmincom’s Joint Task Force Sulu commander Major General Corleto Vinluan.
“The ASG maneuver space is dwindling. Hence, they now have to surrender or be killed by our operating forces,” Vinluan added.
He hailed the “ultimate sacrifice” of one of the troops, saying it would inspire and motivate efforts to stamp out the ASG in Sulu.
The 9 wounded soldiers were brought to Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu’s capital, for treatment.
The military has been in hot pursuit of the ASG, which it said has been reduced to operating in Sulu. The group’s faction under main leader Radullan Sahiron was said to be behind the kidnapping of the couple Alan and Wilma Hyrons from their resort in Zamboanga del Sur on October. They were rescued on November 25.
The military said the ASG has at least 3 remaining hostages, believed to be Indonesians.
Meanwhile, the group’s Sawadjaan faction is said to have been working with foreign extremists to train suicide bombers.
On November 23, Abu Talha, a bomb expert and ISIS’ liaison to the ASG, was killed in a battle with the military in Patikul. His death is a major setback for the Sawadjaan faction.
Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana earlier told Rappler that the ASG’s remaining members “are just there for survival,” especially after some of their key leaders have been killed.
"We call on all the peace-loving citizens of this country to continuously pray for the safety of our soldiers and the enlightenment of our enemies," Sobejana said in Sunday’s statement. – Rappler.com