The military has finally recovered the body of one of the seven alleged Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who were killed in a maritime encounter in Patikul, Sulu last week.
Major General William Gonzales, commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu, identified the body as Dave Sawadjaan, a nephew of slain ASG leader Hajan Sawadjaan, cousin of ASG bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan, and brother of one alias “Urot” who was also a deceased member of ASG under Hajan’s command.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Alaric delos Santos, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), Dave’s cadaver was found floating by the military’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion in Tapul Island, Sulu — approximately 20 kilometers east of the encounter site — around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Delos Santos bared that Dave was positively identified after the dental forensics conducted on the cadaver matched his records.
“Base po sa initial forensics ay tugma po na siya si Dave. Ganoon din sa pagkakakilanlan ng mga dati po niyang kasamahan, siya ang nagmatch sa description ni Dave Sawadjaan (Based on the initial forensics, it was confirmed that he was really Dave. He also matched the description given by his former comrades on Dave Sawadjaan),” delos Santos noted.
The WestMinCom spokesman said Dave bore a gunshot wound to the stomach which exited his hips.
Meanwhile, Gonzales considered the recovery of Dave’s body as a “major development” in their fight against the terrorist group while authorities have yet to find the remains of the six other bandits whom they believe were also killed during the encounter.
“It is possible that some of the cadavers have also resurfaced. This is a major development and our troops will continue the search and retrieval operations,” he said.
Last November 3, elements of JTF Sulu, scout rangers, and special forces encountered seven alleged ASG terrorists while at the open waters of Sulu Sea near the Sulare Island.
A 20-minute gun battle ensued between the military and the bandits, who were believed to be part of the ASG’s kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) group. The military said the group was planning to abduct local businessmen in Sulu prior the encounter.
After the bandits went under heavy fire, the soldiers aboard a Philippine Navy multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) rammed the speedboat that they were riding in and split it into half.
The front portion of the bandits’ speedboat capsized while the other half was retrieved by the military where they found three M4 rifles, two M203 grenade launchers and various ammunition in it.
The soldiers searched for the bodies of the seven bandits but to no avail — until the recovery of Dave’s body four days after the encounter.
Gonzales earlier identified the other slain bandits as Mannul Sawadjaan, the anticipated heir of Hajan; and Madsmar and Mujapar Sawadjaan, alleged brothers of bomb expert Mundi.