COMPOSITE ground forces pounded several lairs of terrorist groups and other lawless elements in Sulu on Wednesday, sparking skirmishes that officials said likely resulted in enemy casualties.
The attacks came following the reported presence of Jemaah Islamiyah militants in Mindanao who were said to have established partnerships with the Abu Sayyaf bandits and Muslim rebel factions with links to the Islamic State.
Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, said the ground assaults occurred after troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion detected a massing of Abu Sayaff elements in Darayan village in Patikul, Sulu, around 10 p.m. Wednesday.
The Abu Sayyaf has used Darayan, a coastal village in the northwestern portion of Sulu, as a safekeeping area for the foreign and local hostages taken from Mindanao and Malaysia.
Darayan has also been the scene of fierce fighting between Abu Sayyaf bandits and soldiers in the past two years.
After pounding the Abu Sayyaf positions on Wednesday, Arrojado said, soldiers directed artillery fire at an Abu Sayyaf encampment reportedly occupied by 300 heavily armed terrorists.
Troops found bloodstains and damaged rifles at the Abu Sayyaf camps during clearing operations after the fighting subsided, Arrojado said.
He said the military recovered no bodies from the scene, but troops from the 1st and 4th Scout Ranger Battalions were still conducting operations against the bandits.