By Aaron Recuenco
Suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) fighters killed five soldiers and wounded 23 others in a fierce gun battle that sparked during the conduct of operations to rescue hostages from the bandit group in Patikul, Sulu.
Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the gun battle started at around 4 p.m. on Friday and lasted for more than one hour.
“Additional soldiers from the Scout Ranger were deployed in the area. The Abu Sayyaf fled and they are now the subject of the continuous pursuit operations,” said Besana.
The clash killed five soldiers, one of them is a rookie soldier while the four others have a rank of corporal. At least 23 other soldiers were wounded during the clash.
Besana said the operation was part of the effort of the military leadership to rescue the remaining hostages, reportedly less than 10 foreigners and locals, and eventually wipe out the bandit group.
It was recalled that the ASG has been blamed for high-profile kidnappings of locals and foreigners in Mindanao and even in some areas in Malaysia that are near the country. They are notorious for beheading both local and foreign hostages whose relatives would fail to yield to their ransom demand.
The ASG was also blamed for high-profile bombings and other terror attacks not only in Mindanao but also in other parts of the country.
The government has been repeatedly pushing to wipe out the ASG but despite the various deadlines cited, the group continues to operate especially in Sulu and Basilan reportedly due to the support of local communities wherein the members are mostly their relatives.
Besana said that in the Patikul clash on Friday, the group is headed by a certain Hajan Sawadjaan who was with some 50 ASG members when the soldiers chanced upon them in Barangay Liang.