Zamboanga City”•The Western Mindanao Command has vowed to continue to pursue the Abu Sayyaf Group after government troops rescued two abducted Indonesian fishermen following two separate clashes with the bandits in Sulu on Sunday.
“We will continue to pursue and neutralize the militants [Abu Sayyaf] with our deliberate operations to rescue captives and thwart their hostile plans," Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom chief, said in a statement on Sunday.
Lt. Col. Gerald Monfort, Joint Task Force Sulu information officer, identified the two rescued Indonesian fishermen as Maharuydin Lunani and Samiun Maneu, who were kidnapped along with Muhammad Farhan by the bandits on Sept. 23 this year off Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Monfort said Lunani was rescued after the first clash around 4:43 a.m. on Sunday in Barangay Pugad Manaul, Panamao, Sulu. The firefight lasted for about 25 minutes.
Monfort said the firefight ensued while the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 troops were checking the reported presence of the kidnap victims in Barangay Pugad Manaul.
He said a soldier and an Abu Sayyaf bandit were killed while two other soldiers were wounded during the first clash.
Westmincom identified the slain ASG bandit as Hairula Itum whose remains were recovered, including an M16 Armalite rifle and one M-203 grenade launcher.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said government troops “are still in pursuit operations to recover Mr. Muhammad Farhan, the remaining Indonesian kidnapped victim.”
“I am confident that we will recover Mr. Farhan with the help of the peace-loving Tausugs who are actively reporting ASG’s presence in their communities,” Vinluan said.
Sobejana said the military had already cordoned off the area, adding they were optimistic “we can rescue Farhan” before the end of the year.”
He said the gallantry of the slain Marine soldier would continue to inspire them “to accomplish more for the common good.”
“We offer our condolences to the bereaved family and loved ones of our soldier, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace to thrive in Sulu,” he said.