37 killed in Sulu clashes, says MNLF
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Fierce fighting between members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf subsided late Monday, February 4, in Sulu but the death toll from both sides has reached nearly 40.
According to Habib Mujahab Hashim, chief of the MNLF's Islamic Command Council, about 20 of their men, including a field commander, have died in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu. Of the total, 7 of them were beheaded, he said.
Hashim said the unarmed men they dispatched to the site of encounter to gather vital information reported to him that 17 Abu Sayyaf were also killed.
The military deployed Marine units to contain the fighting.
“The fighting resumed this morning but it already subsided,” Hashim said. The hostilities began on Saturday night, February 2, following the release of two Filipinos who went to Sulu in June 2012 with Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani. The foreign journalist is still being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf, according to intelligence officials.
Atyani's Filipino crew arrived in Camp Crame on Monday for a debriefing.
In a press statement Monday, AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos could only confirm 4 victims who were beheaded.
"The situation is now under control and AFP troopers are now working closely in assisting the municipal government and the Department of Social Welfare and Development in addressing Internally Displaced Persons from MNLF families near Barangay Kabuntakas, Patikul, Sulu," he said.
At least 60 families had been evacuated.
Apart from Atyani, Abu Sayyaf gunmen are also holding a Japanese, Malaysian, Australian European tourists Elwold Horn, 52, from Holland; Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, from Switzerland. - Rappler.com