READ: Army-Sayyaf clash: 8 dead, 20 wounded
Maj. Arvin John Encinas, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the assault was launched at 6 a.m. in Sitio Tatak, Barangay Tugal, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao.
Two Air Force FA50 bombers dropped eight 250-pound bombs on the lair of the ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Encinas said surgical air, artillery and ground operations were launched against the identified and confirmed location of BIFF sub-leader Salahuddin Hasan alias “Orak.”
“He (Hasan) is under the BIFF-Abu Toraife faction, which is believed to be behind the two separate bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat in September last year,” he said.
The air and ground bombardment could be heard by residents in Tulunan and M’lang in North Cotabato as well as Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.
Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Commander of Joint Task Force Central, said Hasan was among those wounded.
He said reports indicated that foreign terrorists in the camp included a Jemaah Islamiya operative Muhammad Ali bin Abd Al-Rahman, alias Mauwiya, two Indonesians, two Arabs, two Malaysians and Abu Toraype, leader of the Daulah Islamiya Toraype Group.
Sobejana said the bombing was so intense that the terrorists scampered out of their camp, where they were surrounded by government troops, who engaged them in a four-hour battle.
“There were about 70 to 100 fighters in a wide area of the encampment when they were hit by air strikes and ground shelling,” Sobejana said.
Before the air and ground strikes, the terrorist were planning to launch terror attacks on still undetermined targets, Sobejana said.
The assault was launched after Gani Saligan, brigade commander of the BIFF under the Karialan faction led by Ustadz Karialan, alias Imam Minimbang, surrendered to the military on Friday and disclosed the location of the camp.
Earlier, government troops engaged 100 Abu Sayyaf Group bandits under their sub-leader, Hatib Sawadjaan, in Patikul, Sulu, killing three terrorists, including their sub-leader Idang Susukan.
Five soldiers died while 18 others were wounded in the attack.
The Army said the situation in Mindanao remained volatile, but despite the casualties it incurred, it is determined to continue its effort to crush the terrorists.
“We would like to remind everyone that terrorism is real and remains a clear and present danger. Hence, we urge everybody to help and join in our effort to address this phenomenal threat,” the Army said in a statement.
READ: Pope Francis, world leaders condemn attacks
On Sunday, medals were awarded to members of the Scout Rangers who were wounded in the battle with the Abu Sayyaf.
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, handed out the Wounded Personnel medals.
Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command information officer, said, troops of the Army’s 5th,
Scout Ranger Battalion led by Lt. Col. Marlo Jomalesa engaged some 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan for almost two hours.
He said the troops are tracking down the whereabouts of the remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The President’s order to pulverize the Abu Sayyaf came after the bomb attack on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu.
Two successive blasts killed at least 22 people, including five soldiers, a coast guard personnel and left more than 100 people wounded. With PNREAD: Indonesians tagged in blasts
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