SECURITY forces killed 10 Abu Sayyaf members, including two relatives of its leader Radullan Sahiron, and injured an undetermined number of other rebels, during close quarter clashes in Patikul, Sulu, the military reported Saturday.
Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the slain ASG members, including Sahiron’s two close relatives, were pinned down by heavy gunfire during a two-hour encounter at the outskirts of Barangay Igasan in Patikul town 9 a.m. Friday.
Sobejana said the clash actually started at dawn Friday as ground troops pressed their pursuit of more than a hundred bandits behind the beheading of 70-year-old German hostage Jurgen Kantner in the jungles of Igasan village.
The killing of 10 bandits brings to 12 the number of slain terrorist after three days of sustained military operations against the notorious group while government casualties were placed at 18 wounded of which the military official said were non-life threatening.
“Joint Task Force Sulu troopers are relentlessly pursuing the withdrawing ASG members. Troops are supported with strike helicopters, artilleries and armor assets,” Sobejana stressed.
He added that all killed ASG were confirmed and that their names were in his possession.
Military units in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are conducting intensified operations against the bandits in the wake of the beheading of German Juergen Kantner last Feb. 26. Around 31 hostages are believed to be still in the clutches of the terrorist group.
Three days after Kantner was beheaded last Sunday, military forces killed two bandits while three others were wounded.
Sobejana said ASG leader Radullan Sahiron and sub-leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Almuher Yadah were in the group of 120 bandits during the fight with elite army scout rangers and troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion under the 1st Infantry Division.
There were no reports whether Sahiron and his two sub-commanders were also hit during the confrontation, he added.
Sobejana said troops are conducting mapping operations at the battle site possibly to recover the bodies of the slain Abus even as they try to pursue bandits who scampered in different directions after the fight.
Ground troops positions surrounding the encounter site has mobilized interdiction units to trapped the fleeing bandits while attack helicopters conducted air strikes to trapped the terrorists.
Sobejana said artillery fires were also directed at the bandits backed by armored tanks intended to fortify the ranks of ground troops directly engaged in the battle with the rebels.
At least 14 battalions of soldiers are currently deployed in various parts of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi hunting down the forces of evil.
Meanwhile, Muslim lawmakers have said the fight against ASG must be intensified even as they condemned the beheading of Kantner.
Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, the chairperson of the House committee on Muslim affairs, said even Isnilon Hapilon fled Basilan and migrated to Lanao del Sur because of the heightened coordination and support extended by the locals and their leaders to the military.
Hataman said their people will continue to work together to address the culture of fear and impunity in which the ASG thrives by providing law enforcement agencies with the necessary information to stop the acts of terror.
She said the acts of terrorism perpetrated by the ASG must stop.
House Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison, Lanao del Sur Reps. Mauyag Papandayan and Ansaruddin Adiong echoed Turabin-Hataman’s condemnation of the ASG’s cruel act.
They stressed that ASG should cease from claiming they are Muslims because their barbaric acts are anti-Islam.
“These acts of terrorism are not in accordance with Islamic religion or way of life to which we, as representatives of our people here in the Philippines belong,” Sema said.
“We are making this statement lest the rest of the country and the world would perceive our people to consent to, encourage, or support such brutal barbaric acts done not only to a foreigner but to any innocent person,” Papandayan said.
“We call on all Muslims to pray to Allah so that the Bangsamoro Homeland will be protected from the effects of these evil acts of terrorism. We are also requesting our non-Muslim brothers and sisters to pray for us as we lead our people in attaining peace in our homeland,” the Muslim lawmakers said. With Maricel Cruz