Abu Sayyaf admits 12 fighters killed in clash PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 August 2016 14:35

The Abu Sayyaf has confirmed that it has suffered heavy casualty —12 dead — in an encounter with Philippine troops Friday morning, the first hostility in the troubled south  since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his military to destroy the ISIS- linked group after it beheaded an 18-year-old hostage, a television network reported Saturday.

Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo M. Dela Cruz, the commander of Western Mindanao Command, told reporters Friday  that troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu engaged in a 45-minute firefight with some 100 Abu Sayyaf members in Patikul town, Sulu province early Friday.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr.,  the command’s spokesman, said 11 Abu Sayyaf fighters have been killed in the clash.

Dela Cruz also quoted reports from the battleground as saying an undetermined number of the militants were also wounded in the clash, along with 17 soldiers,

However, Abu Rami, an Abu Sayyaf spokesperson, was quoted by ABS CBN News as denying Dela Cruz’s claim  that among those killed was Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Mohammad Said, alias Ama Maas, who has five standing murder warrants out for his arrest.

Said has been tagged as involved in the kidnapping of three foreigners from the luxurious Samal Island resort off Davao City in September last year.

Two of the foreigners — Canadians — were subsequently beheaded after a ransom failed to be paid while a Norwegian remains in captivity.

Brig.Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, told ABS-CBN News that they are validating information that one commander of the Abu Sayyaf was killed in the gunbattle.

Dela Vega said the Abu Sayyaf members were outnumbered by the soldiers who launched the attack on one of the group’s strongholds in Patikul. They were also not expecting the ground assault of the government forces, which the soldiers used as an advantage to strike simultaneously from different directions.

Troops continued Saturday to advance on remote areas of Patikul and Talipao in search of the remaining militants.

According to Dela Vega, government forces did not see any kidnap victims during the encounter.

A number of hostages are still being by the group, including Indonesian sailors, Norwegian Sekkingstad, and Dutchman Ewold Horn who was kidnapped off Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi in February 2012.

The Abu Sayyaf deaths followed Wednesday’s discovery of a severed head believed to belong to Patrick James Almodovar who was kidnapped July 16 in Indanan town in Sulu — an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

Responding to reports of the beheading, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his directive to the military to “destroy” the group.

“My orders to the police and armed forces against enemies of the state: seek them out in their lairs and destroy them... The Abu Sayyaf, destroy them, period,” he told a press conference in Davao City, where he served 22 years as mayor.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

It is among two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the country’s biggest Moro group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.