2 soldiers, 5 ASG killed, 14 others wounded in Sulu clash

By Teofilo P. Garcia, Jr. and Priam F. Nepomuceno

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Two members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed while 14 others were wounded during a heavy clash with government forces in Barangay Tanum, Patikul town, Sulu Wednesday morning, the military reported Wednesday.
Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the clash ensued at about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday when the joint forces from the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and 16th Special Forces Company encountered about 300 ASG bandits, led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, which included those from Basilan and headed by Furiji Indama, along with two suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiyah.
As of this posting, the fire fight continues, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.
As of 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, two government troopers were killed and lightly injured 14 members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, a component of the Joint Task Group Sulu, Cabunoc said.
Cabunoc said the government security troops were conducting law enforcement operations against the bandit group when the fighting began.
He said that the Basilan-based ASG were forced to consolidate with Sulu compatriots due to pressure exerted by local government units and their security forces.
Cabunoc said that the ASG sustained several casualties in the encounter as government forces were able to locate their locations and ambush them.
He added that five ASG bandits were definitely confirmed killed by pursuing soldiers but their compatriots were able to drag clear the bodies along with those wounded.
Cabunoc said field artillery units and Philippine Air Force MD MG-520 attack helicopters pounded bandit positions, further pressuring the ASG.
Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said they pounded with artillery fire and air strikes to softened the positions of the ASG bandits as the fighting rages.
Arrojado said they immediately coordinated with the police as well as ordered the different detachments to set up blocking positions and checkpoints to prevent the escape of the ASG bandits.
He said the move was also aimed to prevent the ASG bandits from extricating their wounded companions.
Muyuela, meanwhile said the ongoing operation aimed to capture or neutralize ASG bandits headed by Hatib Sawadjaan.
“Operation is a joint effort of the AFP , Philippine National Police and LGU in Sulu to seize lawless elements responsible in the series of kidnappings and other atrocities in the province of Sulu and adjacent areas,” she said.(PNA)

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