THE death toll from intense fighting between the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and security forces climbed to 11 Thursday, including a junior Army officer and 10 bandits, while 20 others were wounded in the latest clashes in Patikul, Sulu.
Killed in the fighting was 2nd Lt. Ronald Detalla. Seven other soldiers, including Capt. Edmar Samonte, Pfc Ernie de Guzman, Ssgt. Wilson Fontanil, Pfc Joemar Andrez, Pfc Dennis Desambrana, Pfc Alberto Dinio and Sgt. Arturo Andama were wounded.
Thursday’s total brought to 28 the number of ASG killed in recent fighting as the government intensified its operations against the bandits which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in October 2014.
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, said 10 ASG members were killed in the encounter in the village of Buhanginan in Patikul, Sulu at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday.
The clash broke out when Army Scout Rangers on a clearing operation chanced upon the bandits in their jungle lair, Tan said.
Independent sources said a Malaysian jihadist was in the Abu Sayyaf group that figured in the fighting.
“Patikul is a safe haven for foreign terrorists,” an anti-terrorist expert said.
Seven Filipino terrorist were also killed in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat where local militants under the supervision of foreign jihadists conduct its military training.
Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, an Indonesian terrorist killed in an encounter with Marines on Nov. 26, was one of the corps group members of the Ansar Khilafa Philippines along with five Malaysians, three Syrians and another Indonesian terrorist who have sought sanctuary with local Islamists in Mindanao.
In 2013, the Malaysian government sought the help of the Philippine government to trace the whereabouts of five Malaysian nationals recruited by ISIS who fled to Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf are believed to be holding foreign hostages.
The terrorists last month released a video of the two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort operator and a Filipina abducted in another area of Mindanao and demanded P1 billion in ransom.
A Dutch bird watcher abducted in Mindanao in 2012 is also believed by the military to be held by the same group on Jolo.
Founded in the early 1990s with seed money from late Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for kidnapping dozens of foreign tourists for ransom in the early 2000s.
The group has also been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.
It is believed to have just a few hundred gunmen, but thrives in lawless sections of the southern Philippines where Muslim rebels have for decades fought for independence or autonomy.
The militant group beheaded a Malaysian hostage last month, weeks after a 74-year-old South Korean kidnapped in January was found dead, apparently from illness, on Jolo. With AFP, PNA
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