Air and ground security forces assaulted Abu Sayyaf bunkers in the mountain slopes of Basilan and Sulu that resulted in the killing of four bandits and wounded several others on Wednesday, officials said.
The biggest battle took place on the outskirts of Sitio Gipitan in Bohe Pahu village in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan, after Army and Air Force contingents launched operations against the Abu Sayyaf under sub-leader Furuji Indama.
In other developments:
• A heightened alert has been declared by the North
Cotabato police for possible retaliatory attacks by the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters after one of its sub-leaders and two of his men were killed in recent clashes in
Midsayap, North Cotabato, a police official said Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Bernard Tayong, speaking for the North Cotabato police office, said Col. Maximo Layugan, provincial police director, had ordered all town police stations to maintain a heightened alert and secure all places of convergence like churches following the foiled bombing of a chapel in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.
• Clashes erupted between government forces and communist rebels in the border of two towns in North Cotabato on Tuesday morning, prompting thousands of civilians to flee.
The firefight between elements of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion and communist New People’s Army rebels on the boundary of Antipas and Magpet towns slightly wounded two soldiers and a civilian.
Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said troops from the Army’s 3rd Scout Rangers, elements of the 64th Infantry Battalion, 18th Infantry Battalion and 12th Division Reconnaissance Company under Joint Task Force Basilan led by Brig. Gen Fernando Reyeg simultaneously attacked the Abu Sayyaf past midnight on Wednesday.
Besana said the air and ground attack sparked heavy fighting as the terrorists resisted but were overwhelmed.
The battle forced the bandits to scamper in different directions, but some were hit by the rockets from Air Force attack planes.
“Our troops are currently on the ground to pin down the Abu Sayyaf who are on the run and are evading military forces, said Reyeg.
Besana said troops from the 12th DRC found four dead bodies and three high-powered firearms.
Besana said ground troops and attack planes continued to pursue the fleeing bandits.
“The sustained military operations of JTF Basilan manifest the commitment of the AFP in fulfilling its mandate of bringing internal peace and security in the province of Basilan, said Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.
“Rest assured that we will continue to abide by the rules of engagement and contain the Abu Sayyaf Group with the assistance of the local government and the community.” With PNA