MANILA, Philippines – Three members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed in clashes with the military in Sulu on Wednesday, April 22, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
Troops from the Philippine Army's 45th Infantry Battalion on offensive against the ASG encountered an undetermined number of its members at around 6 pm in Barangay Latih, Patikul municipality, resulting in a firefight.
The clash went on for some 34 minutes until the ASG members "withdrew to different directions," the AFP Westmincom said in a media statement.
The Army troops recovered the bodies of 3 ASG members identified as Guro Khalid, Udal Muhamadar Said, and a certain "Budah."
More casualties among the ASG were reported, including 3 more members possibly killed, said Joint Task Force Sulu commander Major General Corleto Vinluan.
Meanwhile, 8 soldiers were wounded in the battle. They were evacuated to the Camp Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, then on to the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City for treatment.
Wednesday's encounter was part of ongoing offensives by the military against the ASG, a Sulu-based armed group notorious for bombings and kidnappings. One of its factions has ties to the Islamic State or ISIS terror network, and is believed to have been responsible for a number of suicide bombings in 2018 and 2019.
On Friday, April 17, 11 soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded in a clash with the ASG in Barangay Danag, also in Patikul, Sulu.
One of the wounded soldiers, Staff Sergeant Alexander Bolesa, died at a hospital in Zamboanga City on Monday, April 20.
The AFP hailed the fallen soldiers as heroes, and promised to assist and give full benefits to their families.
"We are sustaining our focused military operations in Sulu to finish the Abu Sayyaf Group and bring about peace in the province," said AFP Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.
The general also asked Filipinos to pray for the soldiers "who render selfless service to win peace." – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.