MANILA, Philippines – Six members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed over the weekend in two separate armed encounters with the military in Sulu province, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said on Sunday night, November 24.
On Saturday, November 23, at around 2:40 pm, military troops clashed with the ASG in Sitio Itum, Barangay Kabbuntakas, Patikul, Sulu. The battle lasted 45 minutes, killing an ASG member identified as “Jailade,” and wounding 4 others.
Five soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion were slightly wounded and afterwards treated at the military hospital at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.
A second clash happened on Sunday at around 3:30 pm in Sitio Huton Bahablo, Barangay Silangkan, Indanan, Sulu, between the ASG and the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion. Five ASG members were killed in the 30-minute battle, including Sibih Pisih, said to be the leader of an ASG subgroup under its top leader, Radullan Sahiron.
“Sibih Pisih is one of the original subgroup leaders of the ASG before the group was split into [the] Sahiron and Sawadjaan groups,” the AFP Westincom said in a statement. The faction named after its leader, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, is affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) terror network, while the faction under Sahiron rejects ISIS.
The military said Sibih Pisih was behind kidnapping incidents in the vicinities of Tawi-Tawi province and Sabah, Malaysia. He had a pending arrest warrant for the “massacre” of 22 civilians in Talipao, Sulu, in 2014.
Other ASG members killed in the Sunday clash were identified as Roger Sajih, Saipal Reny, Melvin Reny, and Taihal Sabtal.
Military troops recovered an M653 rifle, a Barret sniper rifle, and a .45 caliber pistol from the bandits.
Two Special Forces personnel were slightly wounded in the encounter.
AFP Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said the operations against the ASG were part of efforts to rescue the group’s kidnap victims, including the couple Allan and Wilma Hyrons, who were abducted at their beach resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, on October 4.
Sobejana added the Hyrons were rescued from their abductors.
On Friday, November 22, military troops killed Abu Talha, said to be ISIS’ “liaison” to the ASG, in an armed encounter in Patikul. He had been training the group’s pro-ISIS faction in making bombs, including the kind used in suicide attacks.
Civilians have been actively helping the military track down the ASG in their communities, said Colonel Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Army’s 1102nd Infantry Brigade.
Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Sulu, said government troops would hunt the ASG down “one by one” if they do not surrender. – Rappler.com