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32 soldiers hurt in Sulu encounter

Thirty-two soldiers, including two officers, were wounded in an encounter with an estimated 100 to 150 Abu Sayyaf Group fighters under senior leader Radullan Sahiron in Talipao, Sulu last Sunday.

Army Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force Sulu, identified one of the two wounded officers as one Lt. Col. Cordova, commanding officer of the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion.

Sobejana said an Army lieutenant was also wounded and one ASG member was killed in the encounter.

Reports said operating troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu were conducting rescue operations on the Vietnamese kidnap victims when they chanced upon about 100 to 150 ASG members in Barangay Upper Laos.

A 30-minute encounter ensued, that wounded 32 soldiers and killed one ASG member.

The ASG withdrew while the wounded soldiers were taken to the hospital. Most of them are in stable condition except for one who remains in critical condition.

Recovered from the ASG fatality was an M16 Armalite rifle.

Sobejana expects more casualties on the enemy side. “We expect more casualties from their side, clearing and scouring are continuing in the engagement area. Until now, we are doing hot pursuit operations against the bandit group,” he added. (Francis T. Wakefield)