At least 11 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) fighters, including a sub-leader involved in the Samal kidnapping, were killed while 17 government soldiers were hurt following an encounter in Patikul, Sulu, Friday morning.
Major Filemon Tan Jr., the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WesMinCom), identified the Abu Sayyaf sub-leader killed as Mohammad Said, alias “Ama Maas”.
Said, who has five standing warrants of arrest for murder, is involved in the abduction of the Samal kidnap victims where two Canadians were beheaded.
Along with that group was Filipina Maritess Flor who was later released and Norwegian national Kjartan Sikkengstad who remain captive by the terrorist group.
The kidnapping happened at the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort last September 21, 2015.
Tan said operating troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu, were on Focus Military Operation at Sitio Makaita, Brgy. Bunkaong, Patikul, Sulu, when they encountered more or less 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters at about 6:12 a.m. Friday.
Tan said the firefight lasted for 45 minutes after which the enemy withdrew towards the west direction.
The six killed ASG bandits according to Tan were based on body count recovered by government soldiers.
As of 4 p.m. Friday another five Abu Sayyaf bandits were added in the death toll as a result of the continuing firefight. Tan said the additional figure was based on intelligence report they gathered from the field.
Meanwhile, a total of 17 soldiers were hurt as a result of the firefight and are currently undergoing medical treatment in Zamboanga City.
Those who were slightly wounded opted to stay and continue the pursuit operations.
As of press time, soldiers from the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion is conducting pursuit and clearing operations against the bandit group. (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)