5 soldiers killed, 23 wounded in Sulu clash with Abu Sayyaf

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Five soldiers were killed while 23 others, including an officer, were wounded when they clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the hinterlands of Sulu, the military reported.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the clash took place around 4:10 p.m. Friday in Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu.

The encounter happened a day after the ASG bandits released a woman they kidnapped along with her militiaman-husband almost two months ago in Zamboanga del Norte.

Besana said the troops from the Joint Task Force Sulu were conducting intensified military operations when they clashed with some 50 ASG bandits led by sub-leader Almujer Yadah.

Besana said the firefight lasted for about one hour and 30 minutes after which the ASG bandits fled to different directions “bringing along their casualties with them.”

He said the exchange of gunfire resulted to undetermined number of casualties on the ASG bandits “as evident on the blood stains scattered in the encounter site.”

While he did not release the identities of the slain and wounded soldiers, he said they belong to the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion.

He said the slain and wounded soldiers were rushed to the Kuta Heneral Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu for immediate medical attention and proper disposition.

“We are deeply saddened by the demise of our five gallant soldiers,” said Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Westmincom chief.

“Rest assured we will provide all sorts of assistance to the bereaved families and to our wounded soldiers,” dela Vega added.

He said troops have been deployed to pursue the fleeing ASG bandits.

On Thursday, the group of Yadah released Helen Roda in Barangay Anuling, Patikul, Sulu following an alleged payment of PHP1-million ransom.

The Sulu Provincial Police Office said the ransom was reportedly delivered by two unidentified negotiators, who at the same time, accompanied Roda in her travel to this city aboard a commercial ferry.

Roda was released 29 days after the ASG bandits freed her husband, Rufo, a militiaman, on October 18 following an alleged payment of PHP1.2-million ransom.

The couple was seized on August 31 by five ASG bandits following a firefight in Barangay Piacan, a coastal village in the town of Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.

Six people, including a militiaman, were killed while a child was wounded in the clash that broke out when the militiamen responded to the reported arrival of five gunmen clad in camouflage uniforms. Ely Dumaboc/PNA – northboundasia.com