7 marines killed, 9 hurt in fresh Sulu firefight PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 May 2013 14:42

Firefight broke out between government forces and Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in Patikul, Sulu yesterday morning killing seven soldiers and wounding nine others

A military official disclosed  soldiers of the 3rd Marine Brigade were conducting operations in Barangay Tugas when they encountered suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen at around 6:45 a.m.

The official said that marines of the 61st and 64th reconnaissance companies were conducting operations following the series of kidnappings in Sulu.

The most recent victim, Criselda Marcos Villaraza, is the wife of a marine soldier in Sulu. She was seized by gunmen last May 18.

As of 10 a.m., exchange of gunfire was still ongoing.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command disclosed that four of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were also killed in the firefight

The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said among the soldiers slain in the clash was an officer. The identities of those killed and wounded in action were still being withheld pending the notification of relatives.

Some of the injured soldiers have already been airlifted and brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga and another hospital in Jolo.

Westmincom added that two of the four Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed in the firefight and were Commander Karaan Sawadjaan and a certain Apong Idol.

Westmincom disclosed that the military has tdeployed four helicopter gunships to relentlessly pursue the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas who figured in a firefight with government forces in Sulu.

Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, upon receipt of the report, has directed the deployment of the helicopter gunships to provide air support to the ground troops and relentlessly pursue the bandits, according to Westmincom spokesman Col. Rodrigo Gregorio.

“The command has deployed four helicopters—two rocket-firing MG-520 attack helicopters and two UH-1H (Huey) helicopters,” Gregorio disclosed.

Police authorities in Sulu have been placed on heightened alert following the clash on in Patikul.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, police regional director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where Sulu is a component province, has ordered Sulu acting police provincial director Senior Supt. Abraham Orbita to put all police forces on red alert to prevent “diversionary tactics” that may be carried out by the Abu Sayyaf to divert military action.

Police are anticipating the beleaguered ASG members may resort to bombing and kidnapping to divert the attention of military authorities.

In the past, when the military launched full-scale punitive action against the extremist group, bombings and kidnappings occur in downtown Jolo and other towns in the island province.

Major General Rey Ardo, Westmincom chief, said military operations are continuing with the Philippine Marines on the ground backed by air assets and artillery.